Text and photos by Andrew Wright
Hoi An, 12 September 2009. For the past six years the Victoria chain of hotels and resorts has hosted a Green Day to promote caring for the local environment and this year was no exception. This French-owned chain has hotels in Vietnam and Cambodia and each year in September they organise their staff, locals and even hotel guests into teams to help clean up the surrounding area. As The Victoria Hotels and Resorts are all situated in places of outstanding natural beauty the cleanup is greatly appreciated by tourists and conscientious locals who understand the need to keep their towns clean for the tourist industry.
Nestled amongst beautiful, well established greenery, The Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa, the first international hotel in the area and the first on this little strip of white sand only a few kilometres from Hoi An, is a verdant gem. The beautifully manicured lawns and bewildering array of tropical plants attract a profusion of dragonflies, butterflies and birdlife. The beachfront is always kept pristine for guests.
Unfortunately this is not the norm and many people in the tourism industry would like to see the government and locals taking more of an interest in retaining Vietnam’s abundant natural beauty. Move a little way from the attended beaches and roadsides of The Victoria and other luxury hotels and manicured lawns and raked beaches make way for less pristine environs.
Caring for the environment is a luxury that doesn’t appear high on most people’s agendas in Vietnam, especially in small towns and rural cities, which is where the Victoria Hotels are situated. And yet it is here that the tourism industry brings much needed income and caring for the appearance of such areas is important if tourism is to continue to blossom as it has been in recent years.
Claude M Balland, the general manager of Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa, suggests that, although progress is not coming quickly, some people are keen to help and are beginning to get the message. “Whenever we organise this people are intrigued and like to join in... there is a party atmosphere and people really enjoy themselves”.
On this Green Day there appears to be an understanding of what’s going on and the staff, hotel guests and locals, who’ve decided to brave the scorching heat, all agree that this is a worthwhile endeavour. There’s a real feeling of team work and fun and by 10am more than 120 participants, in four teams have cleaned huge swathes of beachfront, roadside and the river.
Hoi An Eco Tours, a local environmentally conscious tour company, has supplied the boats and some of their staff also join in on the clean up.
Overall the Victoria hotels of Vietnam and in Cambodia are responsible, on a single day, for cleaning up tons of rubbish with over 1,000, Vietnamese and Cambodians participating. The road to an environmentally conscious Vietnam may be some way off but, as long as these events continue, awareness will be raised and the word will continue to spread.
Andrew Wright is a professional photographer and writer based in Vietnam. http://www.summerwrights.com