Con Dao steers spiritual tourism towards sustainability – Vietnam Investment Review

Votive paper burning has been halted at six heritage sites managed by Con Dao authorities since the start of July. Participating sites include Cau Temple, Tomb of 75 Soldiers, Tho Dia Temple, An Son Temple, Nui Mot Pagoda, and Ngu Hanh Temple.
The ‘Green Offering Basket Saturday’ project has been implemented by the Con Dao National Relic Conservation Centre. The project is in its second phase, running from October 2023 until the end of this year, with the aim of decreasing the burning of polluting materials at historical sites and reducing single-use plastics in Con Dao.
On July 6, 290 out of 322 offering baskets at Hang Duong Cemetery complied with Green Offering Basket regulations, while 32 still used votive paper and styrofoam.
Every Saturday from July 1 to September 30, volunteers from the Green Offering Basket Saturday project will be there at Hang Duong and Hang Keo cemeteries, and Con Dao Temple. They will assist tourists in preparing green baskets without votive paper, styrofoam, plastic bags, trays, or bottles.
The third phase of the scheme, called ‘Green Offering Basket Week’, will take place during the first week of each month from October 1 to December 31.
From the start of next tear, the initiative will take place each day at historical sites all over Con Dao.
The Con Dao National Tourist Area Management Board and WWF Vietnam are also running the ‘Green Handprint’ online challenge until July 15 to promote eco-friendly tourism practices, including reducing plastic use and avoiding votive paper burning at historical sites.
“The Green Handprint Challenge is an activity that demonstrates eco-friendly practices when travelling, living, and working in Con Dao,” said Vo Thi Van, director of the Con Dao National Park Management Board.
Residents and visitors, regardless of nationality, are welcomed to join the challenge. Participants in the challenge need to enter five to ten photos or a video of a minimum length of 15 seconds, and a 200-word review about their experiences of eco-friendly travelling in Con Dao.
Participants who wish to join the challenge can scan QR codes on promotional banners located at historical sites.
Both initiatives are part of Con Dao People’s Committee’s sustainable tourism development plan, which integrates circular economy principles and plastic waste reduction. The plan aims to ban votive paper burning at local heritage sites, and reduce plastic waste by 30 per cent by 2025, and promote sustainable tourism with a focus on eco-friendly practices at spiritual travel sites.
Altogether, these activities support the goals as outlined by Ba Ria – Vung Tau People’s Committee’s Plan for Circular Economy and Sustainable Socioeconomic Development in Con Dao District from 2022 to 2025, and until the end of the decade.
Since its implementation, the new policies have gained the support of the public and tourists alike, according to Ba Ria – Vung Tau Department of Information and Communications.
As a result, plastic waste has decreased significantly with a 40 per cent reduction in floral foam use and a 30 per cent increase in bouquets and potted plants, as reported by the Con Dao National Relic Conservation Centre.
According to the centre, every year, during March and September, Con Dao receives approximately 2,000 visitors per day, with over half of them ‘spiritual’ tourists. Every day, approximately 1,400 to 1,600 sets of votive paper are burned at historical sites, posing environmental and fire hazards. Accommodation and tourism services contribute 33.3 per cent of Con Dao’s annual plastic waste, which amounts to 221.4 tonnes.
Local authorities of Con Dao Island District, off the coast of southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), have launched a Zero Plastic Waste programme, aiming to eliminate single-use plastic products.
Various measures are being taken by authorities and businesses in the southern province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau to keep up with the green tourism trend to attract more travellers.
Lam Duc Du, a forest ranger on Con Dao Island in the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau, wakes up at midnight, picks up his flashlight and goes down to the beach to collect turtle eggs.
The total revenues of Vietnam’s tourism in 2022 was approximately $19.6 billion – nearly triple that of 2021 but only 60 per cent of 2019. Now, there is a clear imperative for tourism in Vietnam to both improve and become more sustainable.
Nearly all Vietnamese tourists expect to participate in sustainable tourism, proving that this type of tourism is gradually replacing other forms, according to a far-reaching report.
By Mai Anh

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Vietnam Investment Review under the Ministry of Planning and Investment
Editor-in-Chief: Le Trong Minh
Deputy Editors-in-Chief: Bui Duc Hai, Nguyen Van Hong and Nguyen Quoc Viet
Editorial Board Member: Dang Tuan Khanh
Managing Editor: Nguyen Chi Mai
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