In "Beyond Green Travel," ADVENTURE Global Travel Editor Costas Christ gives an eye-witness account of the ups and downs of ecotourism in dispatches from around the world.
At Vietnam’s China Beach, local villagers must dig out family members' remains from old burial grounds to make way for new resorts.
Over the last 15 years, tourism to Vietnam has grown by more than 1,000 percent, putting it among the fastest growing tourism economies in the world. The U.S. failed to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese during the “American War,” as it is referred to here, but tourism seems to be succeeding in doing just that.
Historic towns like Hoi An, which I first visited in 1994 and was taken by the beauty of its narrow streets and ornate wooden bridges, are now lined with handicraft shops, souvenir stores, restaurants, cafes, and tailors (the best in town is “Yaly” on Tran Phu Street, where 15 dollars will buy you a perfectly fitted silk shirt made on site).
Wandering Hoi An's streets, which still retain some of the charm that led to tourism's growth here in the first place, I found most of the local people I spoke with echoing Mrs. Chuong, who sells hand-carved chop sticks in the central market: “Ten years ago we had nothing and today we have jobs from tourism and can raise our families and buy food and clothes for our children.”
The local view on all this tourism expansion in Hoi An is overwhelmingly positive. But it does come with a price, literally.
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Photograph by Costas Christ