A Widening Crack in the Wall of Viet Nam’s Tourism Industry?


How to kill tourism in one easy step

I stumbled upon the following 29 July 2019 post with photos on the Danang & Hoi An Foreign Expats Facebook group, of which I’m a lurking member:  I wouldn’t be swimming anywhere near Apocalypse Now Beach Club in the next few days. Huge outpouring of sewage into the ocean. – AM

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Below are some of the more pointed (and slightly edited) comments by both expats and Vietnamese:   

PTA:  I’m a local here and stopped swimming 2-3 years ago. 😦  It is a bad thing when you live on the beach, you can’t swim.

BP:  Local Govt needs to fix all sewage flowing into ocean and collecting all rubbish on the beach and floating offshore everyday and make the beach and water as nice as they advertise which in reality is exactly the opposite.

RMM:  That drainage channel was fully extended to the sea by steam shovel this morning. They must have known that the rain was coming.

AM: You should have seen the paragliding guys running for their life. The sewage came so fast and just engulfed the whole area.

VK:  Show this to the tourist, they wont pay a penny on that hotel again.

TR:  How to kill tourism in one easy step. This has been going on for years…  Who the hell would want to spend their hard earned money on a place like this?

WC:  And you wonder why tourists don’t come back to VN?!?

LD:  My God, terrible smell on the beach today.

This 2017 article entitled Da Nang’s beautiful beaches under threat as sewage streams into the ocean sums it up.  It’s 2019 and nothing has changed.  Warning:  Don’t look at the photos on a full stomach.  

This issue has reared its ugly head in other locations in Viet Nam, including Nha Trang.  Last fall, sewage was being discharged directly into Nha Trang Bay, the result of an overloaded local pumping station.  

Over the past 10-15 years, billions of dollars have been invested in resorts up and down Viet Nam’s long and scenic coastline.  Tourism is a significant source of revenue for the country and tourists continue to flock to Viet Nam in record numbers.  2018 revenue was estimated at $26.5 billion, 11% of the country’s nominal GDP.  Last year, 15.6 million tourists visited Viet Nam, up from 2.1 million in 2000.  That’s a 638% increase in 18 years.  In addition, there were 80 million domestic tourists, an increase of 6.8 million over 2017, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.  

Here’s the bottom line, quite literally:  If the county, at the local, provincial, and national level, does not solve the pollution problem, word will (continue to) spread that the beaches are dirty and the water is polluted, which means tourists will begin to look elsewhere for a quality vacation.  Hotel occupancy rates will plummet and restaurants and other ancillary business will see fewer customers. 

Think of reputation as a container ship reversing direction on the high seas.  It will take an exceedingly long time to persuade tourists from all over the world that the beaches and the water are once again clean, not to mention actually making that idyllic scenario a reality.  

To further complicate matters, many foreigners who visit Viet Nam don’t return.  I’ve seen estimates that range from 70% to 90%.  Environmental pollution will give newcomers yet another reason to follow suit.  The short-sighted obsession with short-term profit has to stop.  Unless something is done very soon, the tourism party is going to be over for Viet Nam.  Change should come for the sake of the environment and all of us who share it.  If it comes because of the prospect of plummeting revenue, I’ll take it.  Same end result, a cleaner environment.  

Full disclosure:  I do not swim in the sea in Danang, Nha Trang, and other well-known resort cities.  Now you know why.  I know too much.  While ignorance is not bliss, the truth can sometimes be painful and sad.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA