History and Heritage in Hoi An, Vietnam: Options for Sustainable Cultural Heritage Tourism for a UNESCO World Heritage Site



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This thesis is concerned with the historical and cultural potential of Hoi An ancient town in Vietnam. It is one of the main factors in developing the current alternative forms of tourism in Hoi An, especially, sustainable cultural heritage tourism. There are many reasons for choosing this mentioned in chapters 4 and 5. This viewpoint is also suggested by Ismagilova et al., (2015), who emphasized historical heritage become an important resource for tourism development. Specifically, among the community capitals, historical and cultural heritage, and knowledge-experience of the local community are the most important assets that are explored as a way to recover the economy, society, and culture of Hoi An and develop this region toward tourism sustainability. To achieve a more complete picture, this work determined what and how aspects of historical and cultural heritage will be portrayed and used in tourism growth; identifying the perspectives of relevant stakeholders concerning the effects of tourism, their involvement, collaboration and support as well as the challenges of sustainable cultural heritage tourism development in Hoi An, Vietnam. This thesis employed semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and observation methods combined with secondary data sources, which provide a wealth of meaningful data and create in-depth insights. Globally, the concept of sustainable development is not a novel topic. However, in Vietnam, this concept has not been used to link to cultural heritage tourism development. The situation in which residents are frequently excluded from tourism development plans and their voices are not heard in tourism activities is widespread in developing countries like Vietnam. This study, therefore, investigates stakeholders' perspectives on participation in sustainable heritage tourism activities in Hoi An. Also, this study used the qualitative content analysis method to analyse respondents’ responses. The results showed that most of the interviewees perceived Hoi An has rich cultural, natural and historical resources. Hoi An has focused on specific historical and cultural assets to become tourism products for tourists. Respondents clearly realized tourism has impacted themselves and their family members. It also brought benefits to the local Hoi An community with various emphases. For example, tourism has a significant contribution to local economic growth, provides employment opportunities for people, raises awareness of cultural and historical assets and increases environmental awareness (see moredetails in Table 6.2). In addition, they indicated that tourism caused negative effects on destination communities such as air and noise pollution; increased cost of living and commodity prices, traffic congestion, commercialization of traditional culture and local cultural changes, etc. Their perceptions demonstrated main points such as at the on-site management level, there is an unequal distribution of economic benefits from tourism activities as a result of 'political inequality' (Huy, 2021). Moreover, the focus of support for the development of tourism from local stakeholders is mainly oriented towards economic advantages rather than socio-cultural benefits. These factors affected the participation of local communities in tourism development. The findings showed that the involvement of relevant stakeholders in the activities of tourism in Hoi An, Vietnam took a top-down approach without much structural support for local involvement; the voices of relevant stakeholders are often not heard in the process of decision-making and tourism strategy due to the political system and socio-cultural constraints, which hamper application of bottom-up participation approach in tourism development. The results show that different degrees of local people's engagement in tourism practice thereby affecting their perception of sustainable heritage tourism on the development of the host community. To some extent, residents' involvement in the Vietnamese context in general and Hoi An, in particular, is more procedural than substantive. The results also indicated that collaboration between stakeholder groups in the development of tourism is currently very limited, even among local authorities. Thus, it is difficult to build trust and share a joint vision among relevant stakeholders. These factors also have significantly influenced the development of sustainable cultural tourism in Hoi An. There are many causes for this problem as discussed in section 6.3. The results suggest that Hoi An has the potential to achieve several interconnected Sustainable Development Goals via tourism development, such as tourism offers great opportunities to promote local historical and cultural assets to the world as well as preserves these resources (SDG11), etc (see more in detail in section 6.1 and 8.2). The thesis suggests sustainable indicators of heritage tourism development for Hoi An based on the perspectives of relevant stakeholders (see Table 7.1). It is also underpinned by a conceptual framework (chapter 2) that includes three key dimensions of tourism sustainability: economic, social-cultural, and environmental aspects. Bringing together all related indicators that are more particular and oriented to the lives and aspirations of local people, the framework aim is to employ historical and cultural assets as sustainable tourism products and conceptualise cultural heritage tourism as a tool for Hoi An toward sustainable development from a local community perspective. The important contribution of this thesis is to develop sustainable cultural heritage tourism for a specific destination, highlighting the importance of local historical and cultural resources. It emphasizes the need to understand the local community's perspective on this form of tourism and uses qualitative content analysis in a heritage tourism context. The local community is at the heart of any destination and the key to obtaining more sustainable tourism development. The holistic view of the local community on this phenomenon is beneficial for local governments, destination managers and policymakers to develop policies and strategies for tourism and enhance community involvement in sustainable tourism development. This study contributes to increasing the awareness of relevant stakeholders about the sustainable tourism development concept, cultural heritage tourism and potential historical assets to support the strategy for Hoi An to develop tourism. Namely, this thesis is to link history, tourism and, the knowledge of cultural heritage tourism to sustainable development; to show how stakeholder theory and collaboration theory are employed at a particular heritage tourism destination. Last but not least, the study suggests that more attention should be paid to the socio-psychological of the local community in order to meet their needs, interests and aspirations as well as raise awareness of the concept of sustainable cultural heritage tourism among related stakeholders. A participatory approach should be implemented step-by-step according to the existing aspects of the local community, allowing the sustainable cultural heritage tourism project to succeed in practice.




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