Spiritual tourism has development potential, especially in Asia-Pacific, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

In Vietnam, this kind of tourism is new, but full of opportunities for further development.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has identified exploring traditional cultural values as a key orientation of the tourism sector to help lure visitors both at home and from abroad.

The sector’s slogan was changed from “Vietnam - The Hidden Charm” in the 2005-2011 period to “Vietnam - Timeless Charm” for the 2011-2015 period.

The first International Conference on Spiritual Tourism for Sustainable Development will be held in the northern province of Ninh Binh on November 21 and 22 as a way to promote Vietnam and Ninh Binh’s tourism potential.

The event will also offer a chance to delegates to discuss matters related to tourism planning, management, conservation, and promotion of spiritual tourism products.

Situated in the Red River Delta’s most southerly point, Ninh Binh is a gateway to connect Vietnam’s northern and southern parts, and the northern coastal provinces and the region’s of Hanoi-Hai Phong-Quang Ninh development triangle.

Ninh Binh is famous for its ancient imperial city of Hoa Lu, which existed for 42 years (968-1010), and other tourist attractions such as Trang An complex and Bai Dinh pagoda, the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia. The province has become the centre of spiritual tourism tours which link various tourism destinations in the north.

According to the UNWTO, the international conference is to strengthen policy framework, boost community-based cooperation, protect and preserve traditional values and develop regulations on using tourism resources and spiritual tourism products to create jobs and intensify product diversity.

Deputy Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Tran Huu Binh said to develop tourism in the Red River Delta in general and Ninh Binh province in particular, regional cooperation should be carried out synchronously under the guidance of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the VNAT.

Ninh Binh targets to welcome six million visitors by 2015, including one million foreigners, an annual growth of 10 percent and earn a revenue of 1.5 trillion VND. From 2020, the tourism sector’s income is expected to account for 10 percent of the province’s total GDP.