During his visit to Viet Nam late last month, Bernard Weber, the president of the organisation New Open World, presented a certificate recognising Ha Long Bay as one of 28 finalists in the online election to choose the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Weber spoke with Culture Vulture about the final stretch in the campaign, with results expected to be announced on November 11.
Have you visited all 28 places selected in the final round?
We've only visited a few, not all 28, since time is running out. The election not only takes place in cyberspace but in real time. For this reason, it's important to meet people in person and understand their motivation. I can gather feedback from local people and give them information about whether their campaign is going well.
Of course, we like to visit places where people have responded to us with enthusiasm. I want to visit countries like Viet Nam, where we have been received with open hearts and open arms.
You enjoyed a panoramic view of Ha Long Bay from the sky and took a cruise on the bay. What did you think?
Ha Long Bay is a unique place. It is so different from my own country of Switzerland, which has many mountains. What caught my attention is how the rocks protrude from the water. I was additionally surprised at the peaceful scenery and the way in which local fishing communities have been protected. Ha Long Bay inspires every single visitor to its shores. In comparison to many other places, the bay is blessed with both iconic status and true beauty. From what I have seen and experienced during my short tour, I personally hope that the bay will receive enough votes to become one of the new wonders of nature.
I think the Vietnamese Government is doing a very good job in giving the campaign official support. Similar to most campaigns, public awareness and participation is a key factor for success. During a meeting with authorities from Quang Ninh Province, I was impressed by both the positive and negative aspects of the bay's development. It is important that people be made aware of problems in order to effectively deal with them.
What should be done to attract more tourists to Ha Long Bay?
It is up to the Vietnamese people to preserve the bay. During my visit, I not only witnessed many excellent development projects, but also many efforts in keeping the bay clean and self-sustaining.
Where did the idea for this campaign originate? What are its goals and how is it significant?
In the late 1980s, I made my first digital film. Thinking that the electronic age had come, I decided to look for ways to help people understand its usefulness and take full advantage of the internet and other devices.
The New Seven Wonders of Nature is the second in the New Seven Wonders of the World campaign. Regardless of nationality, race, religion or gender, people are provided with a chance to vote for the places they consider the most extraordinary from around the world. The campaign offers people a chance to connect based on shared ideas. I believe the idea to be as great as the Olympic Games, although based on culture instead. — VNS