Notes from Hội An- Sustainable Tourism with EMIC Hospitality

At A Glance

The Ancient town of Hội An in Central Vietnam is listed as a world UNESCO heritage site but with such titles comes great responsibility. It’s hard not to fall in love with the enchanting lanterns and fusion of Japanese and Vietnamese architecture of this ancient port town. Tourism reaps many economic benefits for surrounding communities but practicing responsible and sustainable behaviours is key to preserving such a location and connecting its visitors to the land for a memorable experience.

Forever a place in my heart – during my time in Hội An, I teamed up with EMIC Hospitality, the group pioneering sustainability in the town to learn more about their philosophy, explore their sites and see how they are putting their promises into action.

In Focus

EMIC Hospitality was founded in 2012 and employs over 150 staff. They are passionate about the sustainability of the Ancient town, its culture, protecting the environment, and contributing to local communities.  Their mission across their three sites, E Village, The Field and Full Moon Town is to provide visitors with memorable dining experiences in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. Their sustainability goals are driven by the intent to create environmental tourism not purely concerned with economic benefit but one that is sensitive to the environment and local cultures.

They work with local organic farms as well as health and safety distributors to ensure the highest of quality. Their awareness of the impact their sites have on the environment are leaps and bounds above many others in Hội An. It is evident from my time spent with the team their dedication to ecotourism is authentic. Whether it’s through the menu curation, sourcing of produce, the zero plastic philosophy or their support of the local Vietnamese communities, EMIC Hospitality demonstrates best in class.

In conversation with Ha, the Customer Services Manager, we spent hours over a delicious supper provided by EVillage talking about the mission of ethical tourism in Hội An and decimating this across the hospitality industry. Ha’s sentiment that education of their large team is the biggest priority in terms of changing mindset and propelling knowledge of the importance of sustainability throughout local people is something I wholly adhere to. The subsequent day I was fortunate enough to meet with the team again at the Field, set and tucked away in the rice paddies of Cam Tanh Commune, for a tour on how they bring their sustainable objectives to life.

How do they bring their mission to life?

  • The group work to reduce plastic in the supply chain wherever possible.
  • They separate their rubbish into 3 types, a rarity and progressive move for an establishment in Vietnam; compostable, recyclable and non-recyclable.
  • They create their own soap made from reused cooking oils! These are utilised across all three estates and are blended with coconut oil and essential oils such as lemongrass to create a lovely product.
  • In terms of how their ethos translates into food, they support local where appropriate and only source ingredients from suppliers with certifications to ensure safety and quality standards.
  • Excitingly, they are the only hospitality group to source many of their produce from one of Central Vietnam’s only organic farms, Thanh Dong Organic Farm. If you are ever in the area you can find out more about the farm and visiting here.  
  • Respectful of seasons, their menu changes accordingly but also deploys unusual ingredients originating from the area including cassava noodles. This was done with the intention to re-ignite the cassava farming economy for locals and thus supporting the communities.
  • During events hosted at the Field they provide additional employment for the local workers, whether this is in preparation of the gardens or by driving the traditional Vietnamese basket boats for guests onto the site. For special events such as their Gala dinner they rent the surrounding land of the site owned by the rice growing community to stage the activity, thus providing them with an additional source of income. These local people also attend the event and are invited to meet with attendees sharing their local cultural traditions. This is best embodied during the below event:
  • The Field is their primary location for trialling new sustainable practices, whether it’s their composting hub or very excitingly their waste water treatment system.
  • Outside of their three sites they engage in sustainable tourism practices through other actions. EMIC Hospitality recognise the importance of collaboration to further the sustainability agenda in Hội An , they have teamed up with the social enterprise Green Youth Collective in running community based local tours for visitors to build long lasting connections.  
  • GYC is a local social enterprise that operates in the city and sub regions of Hoi An World Heritage, Central Vietnam. Our strategic projects include Regenerative Gardening, Waste management & Sustainability Literacy – Sustainable skills Education. GYC has been pioneering the Waste management programme with hotel and restaurant businesses in Danang & Hoi An area since 2018. Until Feb 2020, we have recycled ~ 400kg of discarded room amenity soaps and 2 tons of linens; and recently started the Kitchen waste program. We provide jobs and nurture entrepreneurship for local youth and workers on waste management. GYC coordinates Hoi An Eco-city Working Group, a local network of solutions towards sustainability in waste management. We are also the implementing partner and technical consultant for waste management program by Hoi An Authority and Quang Nam Tourism Association.
  • In collaboration with the Hội An ’s local government, they hosted the first Sustainable Tourism Conference Quang Nam 2019. Here the conversation centred around zero plastic and zero waste tourism as well as how the area must act in order to avoid becoming a victim of its own success, as demonstrated by certain areas of neighbouring Thailand.

Final Thoughts

Hội An by definition means peaceful city, but three years on from my initial visit I feel it could almost be the anthesis of this. You can access WiFi across the town, order a Grab food delivery to your hotel within 15 minutes, and often get stuck by the parade of tourists on tuk tuks in the Old Town. I found myself often escaping to the beach in pursuit of peace and this made me wonder the extent to which true authenticity can be preserved. Many times, such destinations become a victim of their own success, propelled by the UNESCO badge but unequipped to manage the tourism that comes with it. The saturation of the hospitality and accommodation industry in the town has meant that competition has pushed prices down, thus reducing the potential long-term profits for local business people. TripAdvisor is used as a local currency to attract custom from foreigners however frequently lacks legitimacy as many patrons of establishments will offer reduced rates/discounted meals in exchange for a positive review.

Having met with EMIC Hospitality, my faith in the possibilities for a place such as Hội An are restored. Their strategy has clearly created a triple win for stakeholders; the tourists, the locals and the company itself.

Their dedication to green practices, ethical sourcing and finding value from waste in their restaurants should be applauded and spread elsewhere in the local area. What is most valuable and powerful attribute in my opinion is their dedication to creating long-term support to the working Vietnamese community  and economy that are the back bone of this beautiful place.

EMIC Hospitality have 3 sites across the Hội An  region, they can be found here:

The Field Restaurant, Vong Nhi Hamlet, Cam Thanh Ward Hội An  56000

E Village, 79 Nguyen Phuc Chu, Minh An Ward Hội An  560000

Full Moon Town, 101 Cua Dai Street., Hội An  City, Quang Nam Province, Viet Nam

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