The Central coastal city of Hue is of remarkable significance in the history of Vietnam. Once the capital of the country, Hue straddles the famous Perfume River, was the hub of Vietnam’s imperial dynasty, and holds the last remnants of what it left behind. In 1993, the major sites of the city received World Heritage status, a fact that the city is quite proud of, as it boasts of the honour on signs outside the city Citadel and the Nguyen royal tombs. More than 30 million visitors have visited the city since the declaration 25 years ago. Overall, Hue has received a significant boost in tourism which has been growing incrementally on an annual basis, the results of which have been both positive and negative.
Image source: nhatlongtravel.com
La Residence is a five-star hotel centrally located in Hue. During Vietnam’s French colonial era, it was a guesthouse for French elites. In 2005 it became a hotel that caters mostly to French and American tourists.
Ms Nga, one of the concierge workers there, is hopeful about the rise in tourism, and the changes in development and infrastructure that are taking place as a result. “I’m excited about the walking street!” she says.
“The government is working on a walking street between the two bridges (along the Perfume River). It will go from the Citadel to the major places in Hue!”
Although enthusiastic about the changes, she has concerns about the conservation of some of the lesser-known buildings and relics in her city, fascinating places like Ho Quyen, the famous fighting arena where Nguyen emperors like Minh Mang were entertained by annual battles between tigers and elephants. “If we build up more places like that, they will be more popular to the guests.”
Video source: Angus Ashton Film
Hue on the Forefront of Ecological Preservation in Vietnam
Hue officials have recognised that the upsurge in tourism comes with a cost to the ecology and have been working with international organisations as a means of preserving Hue’s natural environment, especially when it comes to carbon emissions. In 2016, Hue was recognised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a National Earth Hour Capital, according to VietnamTourism.com. At that time, Hue committed to cutting 20 percent of its gas emissions by 2020 compared to 2011 by focusing on urban green coverage, wastewater and garbage treatment, eco-tourism products, smart public lighting systems, renewable energy, and environmentally friendly building materials.
Image source: langvietonline.vn
Hue’s biggest challenges to tourism come from the extreme weather conditions the city endures during its wet season. Heavy rains and flooding deluge the city, bringing normal daily activities to a standstill as people focus on the safety of their families, property and possessions. During this period, tourism is at a low, and tourists who endure this season rarely return.
Despite the challenges, tourism is likely to increase in Hue, and the small city will have to rise to the challenge of maintaining a balance between development and ecology preservation, or else squander the elements that make it one of the hidden gems of Vietnam.