Sustainable Urban Tourism Though Low Carbon Initiatives

Two East Asian cities have been exchanging ideas for how to develop bicycle-oriented tourism. In “Sustainable Urban Tourism though Low Carbon Initiatives,” Chiang Mai in Thailand and Hue City in Vietnam shared information and consulted with each other on strategies for sustainable tourism. Information-gathering, analysis, feedback, and exchanging experiences helped each city develop its own strategy – both involving the development of infrastructure for non-motorized transport.

Fast facts:

  • In Chiang Mai, the project aims to reduce 600 tons of carbon dioxide annually
  • In Hue, the project aims to reduce 200 tons of carbon dioxide annually

The problem

Chiang Mai and Hue are both East Asian cities in developing countries that attract numerous tourists. Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, is well known for its natural beauty, its mountains, and its enduring Lanna tradition, which includes herbal healing and massage arts. Hue, in central Vietnam, not only offers mountains for hiking, but also coastline beaches.

However, both cities also suffer from pollution problems, in particular, air pollution caused by motorized transport. This not only creates a noisy, dirty environment for residents, but also dampens the further development of tourism.


The solution

Both cities have engaged in a multi-stakeholder partnership to develop climate-compatible urban tourism. The cities conducted surveys and analyses for greenhouse gas emission inventory of the tourism sector, as well as gathering questionnaires from tourists and community members to gain feedback. Through a collaborative process, strategies and actions for sustainable tourism were then recommended, considering both low-carbon development as well as the creation of green jobs for poor populations in the two cities.

In Chiang Mai, the recommendation was to develop a bicycle route and footpath to connect the Three Kings Monument Square and moat in the city center. The aim is to increase the number of bicycle routes and cyclists in the inner city, while creating employment opportunities in the form of bicycle rental and repair shops, bicycle sellers, street vendors, tricycle providers, and tour guides.

In the case of Hue, the suggestion was to promote “Garden Houses”: buildings in a traditional architectural style closely connected to the natural environment, and unique to the city. This is done by restricting motorized vehicles around the buildings. In addition to generating income for owners and workers at the houses, it would also benefit cyclo drivers and street vendors.


Helping the planet

Reducing motorized transport decreases pollution, including emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Switching from motorized to human-powered transport also decreases the demand for fossil fuels, preventing the environmental destruction related to their extraction.


Helping people

Many job opportunities can be created by developing non-motorized transport, including in providing and maintaining bicycles, street vending, guides, and other services. Since bicycles are cheaper and more accessible than motorized vehicles, these opportunities are more likely to include the city’s poorer populations. Both tourists and residents benefit from reduced traffic and pollution, including the noise pollution from motors.


Spillover effect

The vision of the project is to provide a framework for urban, climate-compatible tourism initiatives. As such, it could be applied in numerous contexts. Standard activities undertaken and the scientific procedure followed, insure that a similar approach can be replicated in other small-to-medium-sized cities to ascertain sustainable urban tourism development. The discussion platform of the project functioned as an initial catalyzer, significantly contributing to the process. This, too, can be replicated in numerous settings.




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