Con Dao Tourism Masterplan by hansen partnership

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Con Dao is an archipelago located off the south-east coast of Vietnam, about 250 kilometres south of Ho Chi Minh City.

It has an outstanding natural environment and is of great spiritual and cultural heritage importance to the people of Vietnam. It is a place of National Significance. This significance is reinforced with the Prime Minister of Vietnam’s direct involvement in all decisions made regarding the islands.

The cultural heritage significance of Con Dao is due to its history as a penal colony, first by the French dating from early 1860’s, and later from the mid 1950’s to 1975 by the US backed South Vietnamese Government. More than 20,000 prisoners died whilst incarceration on the island and political prisoners held on Con Dao included many of Vietnam’s revolutionary leaders.

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Today Con Dao today is a place of stark contrasts. On one hand it is a group of beautiful tropical islands, the majority of which are designated as a National Park and which are surrounding seas designated as a Marine Park. On the other hand it has a notorious legacy associated with its brutal penal colony past, which is set within a context of amazing and historic French architecture and streetscapes.

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Led by hansen partnership, the project sought to sensitively draw upon these contrasting elements to prepare a sustainable tourism master plan. The master plan carefully balances the protection of the natural environment and the cultural heritage values of the island, with the needs of the local community. In seeking maximise the benefit of tourism it chooses quality over quantity, with a specific aim of attracting small numbers of higher value tourists, rather greater number of lower value tourists. It focuses on preparing marketing strategies, and on realising on-the-ground projects and improvements to natural and built environments and to transportation. It addresses governance and capacity building, and establishing training programs and sustainable business opportunities for local residents.
There had been relatively little development in Con Dao to date. However, pressure was increasing for development as local and international awareness of the archipelago grows.

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Con Dao aims to be the leading example of sustainable tourism and eco-tourism in Vietnam. There are major constraints to the development of the island, including its natural environmental carrying capacity and practicalities such as the availability of fresh water. However, the principles and practices of ecologically sustainable development embedded within the Con Dao Tourism Master Plan created by hansen should ensure it prevails throughout all tourism development and activity on the island.

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As non-local consultants, the most important part of the project involved getting to know the local community, and what makes Con Dao so special to the people of Vietnam.

The project involved:

  • Spending time living and working on the island, over three visits for durations of up to 2 weeks.
  • Involving Vietnamese professionals as part of our team, including a Vietnamese community planning specialist.
  • Visiting all parts of the archipelago, visiting the islands, walking the trails through the National park, visiting the shrines and temples, listening to the storeys of Con Dao.
  • Meeting with all key agencies and stakeholder groups.
  • Meeting with all key community groups and meeting with local people.
  • A study tour to other tourist islands in Asia with members of the government agencies responsible for assessing and implementing the plan.
  • Entry and exit surveys of passengers at the airport.
  • Identification of initial thoughts and ideas for confirmation that we were on the right track, before proceeding to finalise the plan.

The Con Dao Tourism Master Plan provides a comprehensive, innovative and practical plan that will allow the Vietnamese Government to approach tourism planning in this special place in a sustainable way. The plan was carefully crafted to ensure that it fits within the Vietnamese planning and investment system, despite introducing many new ideas and innovative approaches to tourism planning. The details of the plan and the breadth of its considerations will ensure that the spectacular beauty and spiritual values of this unspoilt place are protected into the future, while allowing for sustainable tourism growth that benefits the local community.

Con Dao aims to be the leading example of sustainable tourism and eco-tourism in Vietnam. There are major constraints to the development of the island, including its natural environmental carrying capacity and practicalities such as the availability of fresh water. However, the principles and practices of ecologically sustainable development embedded within the Con Dao Tourism Master Plan created by hansen should ensure it prevails throughout all tourism development and activity on the island.

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The end product of the project is a fully endorsed sustainable tourism master plan, approved personally by the Prime Minister of Vietnam. The most rewarding part of the project for the team was when the Chairman of the People’s Committee said he was “…amazed at how well we grown to understand the place, despite not being Vietnamese”. Fine praise indeed.

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Con Dao Tourism Masterplan

Location | Con Dao Island, Baria Vung Tau Province, Vietnam
Design firm | hansen partnership
Consultants |
Tim Nott
New Earth Tourism

Image Credits | hansen partnership
Text Credits | hansen partnership