Lighting up the night remains an economic challenge

By Hoai Thu, Nguyen Ha   October 8, 2019 | 11:32 pm PT
Lighting up the night remains an economic challenge
People gather at a music festival in Da Nang in July 6, 2018. Photo courtesy of Empire Group.
Many businesses in Vietnam have attempted to participate in the country’s nighttime economy but few have succeeded as demand fails to cover costs.

For the last five years, real estate developers have announced several nighttime complexes in popular travel destinations like Ha Long, Da Nang, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc. But most of these have not come to fruition.

In 2017, the $5 billion Cocobay city opened in Da Nang’s Ngu Hanh Son District. Real estate developer Empire Group invited "Despacito" singer Luis Fonsi for a nighttime music festival, set to be the first of many nocturnal activities in the city.

The organizers targeted an audience of 30,000, but only a third of that showed up.

After that, nighttime festivals and shows advertised to happen every week have become occasional events in the central city. Bars, pubs, restaurants and malls close at 11 p.m. as there are few customers.

Retail chains are also struggling. Apart from convenience store chain Circle K, no major retail chain currently offers services 24 hours a day.

Competitor Shop&Go used to remain open 24 hours during its 14 years in the country, but after it was acquired by a unit of Vingroup and became part of VinMart+ chain this year, the stores no longer stay open through the night.

Vu Thi Hau, deputy chairwoman of the Association of Vietnam Retailers, said that not many retailers are willing to open past 10 p.m. because locals and tourists are more attracted to entertainment areas in the night, not to supermarkets and malls.

Revenue from nighttime sales are low and do not cover the increased utility costs; salaries are also 30-40 percent higher in the night, she said.

Dang Hung Vo, former Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, said that nighttime business models launched by real estate developers have not succeeded because they do not understand what tourists actually need.

Developers need consult with tourism experts to be able to offer nighttime activities in an effective manner, Vo said.

The Vietnamese government is studying several nighttime economy models to help attract tourists and increase their spending in the country. Hanoi allows restaurants and bars in its central Hoan Kiem District to open until 2 a.m. from Friday to Sunday; and HCMC, the city most known for its nightlife in the country, has several nighttime hotspots that both locals and tourists flock to.

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