Oct 28, 2012

Vietnam - Tourism for peace

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VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam has a particular tourism product that is still neglected by domestic companies to make the difference: it is the epic history of the nation.

Massage instead of pulling the trigger

In HCM City, visiting the Cu Chi tunnels, the War Remnants Museum or the Reunification Hall is usually part of the Vietnam discovery program that travel firms introducing to foreign visitors.

The emphasis in the program is always beauty spots, cuisine, culture, music... Meanwhile, for the last 20 years, the War Remnants Museum has formed a special type of tourism - tourism for peace. A majority of foreign tourists, particularly veterans and students, enjoy this unique tourism product. Many of them came back Vietnam twice a year, one month each.

According to Ms. Huynh Ngoc Van, director of the War Remnants Museum, tourism for peace was born from the actual needs of many travelers. They went to the museum to express their willingness to meet and exchange with Vietnamese witnesses of war.

Ms. Van said that she had witnessed intimate encounters full of tears among Vietnamese veterans and American, Australian, Korean veterans who participated in the Vietnam War.

There are many stories that she cannot forget. American physiotherapist John Fisher (a veteran in the Vietnam War), his wife and friends asked the museum to help them meet with Vietnamese veterans. After the meeting, the couple recommended to give massage for Vietnamese veterans. They brought massage beds to Vietnam and directly massaged on the disabled body of the people who confronted them in the war. Since then, every year the couple went to Vietnam twice, one month each, to guide and assist the victims of war to treat their sequel.

Many foreign tourists do not understand why a country of poverty, backwardness as Vietnam could beat France, Japan and the United States. They said that Vietnamese people must be very combative and aggressive. They go to this country to learn the story. But they are astonished by the hospitality of Vietnamese people. They cannot understand how the Vietnamese are so tolerant to the extent that they are possible to speak in a friendly way, sing with those who used to be their enemies.

All the things make visitors surprised, touched and they want to come back to Vietnam to work together to build peace. From that fact a unique tourism product has been gradually formed – tourism for peace.

Gold mine

"The beauty of material brings people to you, but the beauty of spirit is what makes people come back," Van said.

According to the museum’s report, in 2007, it received over 380,000 visitors but the figure increased to 660,000 in 2011, including more than 400,000 foreign visitors.

Van said foreign visitors would love for this unique type of tourism. Many people returned with their friends and relatives or at least told others about this type of tourism. It’s one of the reasons for the number of visitors to the museum continues to grow.

Of the total number of visitors to the museum, up to one third are young people. Many delegations consist of only university students. There were groups of Japanese students with up to 500 people. These visitors usually stay in 4-5 star hotels and spend a lot of money. This shows the ability of expanding the market for tourism for peace.

"This is a gold mine of tourism but so far we have not considered," Van insisted.

Tourism for peace is a type of tourism is interested in by foreign travel companies. The Center Tourist Company of Japan has offered this service for many years. Every year, they organize tours to Vietnam for high school students. Students in the U.S., Australia ... are also brought to the museum. Many backpackers take up to three days to learn about the museum thoroughly.

Tourism is generally divided into two seasons: peak and off-peak seasons in a year. "But tourism for peace is always in the peak season," Van said.

Then she suggested to be based on the holidays in the years to organize tours under different themes to attract tourists such as: Love in the War on the occasion of the Valentine Day, February 14, or Women in the War on the occasion of the International Day for Women, March 8.

Vietnam currently has some destinations for tourism for peace such as the Cu Chi tunnels in the south; Vinh Moc tunnels and the DMZ (demilitarized zone) in the central region; Long Bien Bridge, Hoa Lo Prison, Dien Bien Phu in the north. This number of destinations is too small compared to the country’s history.

Tourism companies admitted that they have not explored the value of the chain of war relics while this is a competitive product.

Translated by P. Linh

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