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 September 19, 2002
Vietnam's "World Heritage Road" Launches Phase II

 The World Heritage Road, the new community-based tourism development initiative of Central Vietnam, is moving into the second phase of its development at meetings to be held at the Furama Resort, Danang on 20 & 26 September, 2002. So far, the World Heritage Road has been officially established since 6 April 2002 in the provinces of Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam, and the city of Danang. The second phase envisages the initiative expanded to include members from within Central Vietnam's 11 other provinces. The meeting on 20 September will be attended by Mr. Fumiaki Gendo the representative of the Historical Road of Japan, as well as World Heritage Road members, partners and media. The meeting on the 26 September will be attended by Madame Vo Thi Thang, Chairwoman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, representatives of the tourism departments of 14 provinces of Central Vietnam.

For the meeting on 20 September, the World Heritage Road (WHR) board is expecting over 100 participants, including representatives of potential World Heritage Road partners such as Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines, ACB Bank/Visa, Fosters, Pepsico, Caravelle Hotel (HCMC), Daewoo Hotel (HN), and others. The WHR is currently finalizing agreements with partners and members, and 50 members have signed up so far. After adding the other provinces of Central Vietnam to the WHR, this number is expected to increase to over 200 members by the end of 2002 and around 1000 members are expected by the end of 2003.

The meeting this time is part of a WHR awareness campaign and will also be staged in Ho Chi Minh City in November and Hanoi in December. There will be monthly WHR introductions in the various provinces of Central Vietnam held throughout 2002/3.

The World Heritage Road launched its website in June 2002 and will improve & update it in October 2002. It will be available in three languages: Vietnamese, Japanese and English in the first quarter of 2003. The World Heritage Road has already received extensive media coverage in Vietnam and overseas. NHK - TV from Japan produced a 45-minute documentary on the World Heritage Road in June 2002, which is being screened from September 2002 worldwide. A German TV station also plans to make a documentary on the World Heritage Road in 2003.

The World Heritage Road has also begun some practical tourism initiatives since its inception. For instance, Vietnam had a problem with beach safety, which was addressed by the WHR in August 2002 by inviting the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia's Victoria Branch to provide lifeguard training in Danang. Several WHR member resorts have participated on the training (including the Furama Resort, Danang and the Victoria Resort, Hoi An).

The Government of Vietnam, the Royal Life Saving Society and the WHR are now hoping to set up a lifeguard center in Danang to train lifeguards in Vietnam, thereby making it safer to swim at popular beaches, rivers and lakes water parks, hotel & public pools in Vietnam.

The WHR member hotels are also cooperating with the VNAT/Lux Development to train and certify hospitality staff in Vietnam. In June, 139 staff of the Furama Resort, Danang were examined and awarded with an internationally-recognized crafts certificate. There is a plan to repeat this examination for other hospitality businesses, including hotels and restaurants.

The strategic location of Danang in the center of Vietnam and the importance of central Vietnam in the tourism development of Vietnam has also made the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) decide to initiate plans for a USD10 million academy to train personnel for the hospitality and travel industry in Danang, and counter what is becoming a critical shortage of skilled tourism workers.

In March 2003, during ITB, Berlin the WHR will be introduced to overseas countries to promote Vietnam as an exciting destination. Terra Trends, a marketing company based in Germany, will be contracted to market the World Heritage Road in Europe. The ITB is an ideal forum to introduce new promotional campaigns as it was done successfully in 1999 with "Vietnam - A Destination for The New Millenium".

Vietnam has become a successful tourism destination, counting 1.76 million tourists so far in the first 8 months of 2002: up 11.2 % year-on-year. Domestic tourists registered 8.1 million for the same period, up 4.7%, according to VNAT figures

Commenting on the performance of the World Heritage Road to date, Paul Stoll, General Manager of The Furama Resort Danang and Secretary General of the World Heritage Road, said: "I believe The World Heritage Road is contributing successfully to cooperation between the travel trade, improving our tourism product and promoting it effectively, in both domestic and overseas market places.".