The very mention of Vietnam conjures up some of Southeast Asia’s most iconic images: awe-inspiring limestone islets rising majestically out of Ha Long Bay, traditional farming scenes in impossibly green rice paddies, and the lantern-strewn streets of Hoi An’s ancient town. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi serve as the country’s urban centers, but 70% of Vietnamese still live in the nation’s lush hills, including 54 ethnic groups with distinct cultures. One of the world’s most biodiverse countries and a regular site of discovery for new flora and fauna, Vietnam is home to the rare Saola antelope, Indochinese tiger, the highest primate biodiversity in the region - including 5 endemic species - and over 12,000 species of plants. Vietnam’s first civilizations rose from the Red River Valley nearly 5,000 years ago. In the 19th century, after a thousand years under Chinese control, Hu? was declared the capital of the Nguyen dynasty and its significant artistic and cultural influence can be seen in the citadel’s Imperial City today. Whether exploring the country’s varied UNESCO World Heritage sites, including underground caves in Asia’s oldest karst mountains, trekking or biking through awe-inspiring northern mountain-scapes, or sampling a diverse national cuisine that retains influences from both Chinese and French rule, Vietnam is a fascinating destination rooted in time-honored traditions.
Vietnam’s dramatic shift from a centrally planned to market economy in the 1980s spurred rapid development focused more on immediate socio-economic growth than long-term sustainability. But looking towards the future, more attention is being paid to the role that responsible tourism practices must play in the country’s long-term prosperity and the conservation of its rich cultural heritage and many natural wonders. While the government works towards developing comprehensive policies at a national level, most sustainability initiatives are currently being driven by the private sector, like tour operators that include garbage collection on their Ha Long Bay tours and a robust network of social enterprises and NGOs that promote community-based tourism opportunities, especially in the country’s fantastical mountains.
Vietnam is known for its tailors and textiles. It the fifth largest exporter of textiles in the world with some two million workers and more than 6,000 textile-related firms in the country. But the industry is long had a reputation for polluting practices and sweatshop environments. It will not be easy transforming this age-old industry but there are signs of hope. The government has implemented stricter environmental protection laws, and is imposing harsher fines. Clothing manufacturers themselves are taking measures to become more sustainable such cutting back on water usage and recycling water used to wash textiles. New factories are better designed such as Deutsche BekleidungsWerke in southern Vietnam, which installed air-conditioning throughout the factory for its workers and uses solar to supply about 20 percent of their energy.Why the Tiger Ranking?