Watch-the-movie see-the-scene tourism develops in Vietnam

By Kieu Anh   December 29, 2020 | 09:19 pm PT
Although in its infancy as a market niche, locations where popular films have been shot are attracting many tourists in Vietnam.

Thua Thien Hue has witnessed a sudden influx of tourists, visiting the filming locations of movies like "Mat Biec" (Dreamy Eyes) and "Gai Gia Lam Chieu 5" (The Last Egg 5).

Nguyen Van Phuc, deputy director of the central province’s Department of Tourism, expressed his appreciation for the film crew who have selected the province as shooting locations, including that of "Dreamy Eyes".

Directed by Victor Vu, "Dreamy Eyes" was released in December 2019 and became one of the top 10 highest grossing movies of the year, reaching the VND100 billion ($4.3 million) mark within nine days.

The movie was shot in multiple locations, including Thien An Hill, the old town of Bao Vinh and the Ha Quang Village. Since then, these spots have become destinations favored by many domestic tourists, surprising locals.

A street vendor in Mat Biec (Dreamy Eyes). Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh.

A street vendor in "Mat Biec" (Dreamy Eyes). Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh.

Although there is no official promotion campaign, several movies have promoted tourism in the last few years, including: "Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh" (Dear Brother), directed by Victor Vu, shot in central Phu Yen Province; "Chuyen cua Pao" (The Story of Pao), directed by Ngo Quang Hai, shot in Dong Van District in northern Ha Giang Province; and the Hollywood movie "Kong: Skull Island" directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, shot in northern Ninh Binh Province.

Travel agency rep and local authorities had told local media that the number of tourists to Quang Ninh Province, Ninh Binh Province and Quang Binh Province had slightly increased by 10 to 20 percent after a week from "Kong: Skull Island"'s premiere.

At a cinema conference held in 2019, it has been reported that before the movie "Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh", Phu Yen Province's tourism growth rate reached 12-13 percent. After its release, the rate had increased to 25 percent.

Local authorities have taken notice of this potential.

"In response to the needs of visitors and the community, the local authorities have plans to clean roads and rebuild street tea houses for the guests to rest. Besides, we are going to add more guide signs on the road and launch bicycle renting schemes for tourists", said Nguyen Tuan Anh, vice chairman of the People’s Committee of Quang Dien District, Thua Thien Hue Province.

The An Hien Garden House in Hue which appeared in the movie "Gai Gia Lam Chieu 3" (The Last Egg 3) has been refurbished and placed under professional management and is now becoming a part of several Hue exploration tours.

On a provincial scale, Phuc said that film-induced tourism was now part of Hue’s tourism plan. In fact, there has been cooperation between film producers and the authorities on this count.

The movie "Gai Gia Lam Chieu 5" (The Last Egg 5), directed by Tran Nguyen Bao Nhan, is mainly shot in the "Bach Tra Vien" (white tea garden) of An Dinh Palace.

The director said: "At the beginning of our production plan, we had to discuss it immediately with the People's Committee of Thua Thien Hue Province. Phan Ngoc Tho, chairman of Hue People’s Committee, and Phan Thien Dinh, city party committee secretary and the film crew brainstormed several ideas to promote Hue as a film location destination for tourists."

"The white tea garden was imagined as a check-in spot for people who want to visit and take photographs".

On a national scale, the government has invested in making the Co Loa film set with the aim of promoting film tourism, but it has not taken off as expected.

Pitfalls ahead

Filming location travel is a lucrative business but there are some impacts to be kept in mind.

In Phu Yen Province, after the success of the movie "Toi Thay Hoa Vang Tren Co Xanh" (Dear Brother), tourism boomed.

However, this also generated trouble because many visitors were not concerned about the environment. Locals were dismayed at the trash and litter that accumulated. Nylon bags, plastic bottles and carton boxes spoiled the lush green prairies and cacti growing on many areas along the coast.

When "Kong: Skull Island" starring Hollywood stars was shot there, it made the Trang An complex in Ninh Binh Province known to the whole world and drew in tourists from all over.

However, the film sets had to be removed in September, 2019 because of the adverse impacts it was having, affecting Vietnam’s natural heritage despite being a highly popular tourist spot from 2017 to 2019.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts in Ninh Binh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Vu Duc Phuong.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts in Ninh Binh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Vu Duc Phuong.

While Vietnam has considerable potential for developing film-induced tourism, tapping it, especially on an international scale, requires targeted investments and other policies to foster a moving-making environment and making clear the process and procedures it entails, said experts.

It is worth looking at other countries that have scored some success in exploiting this niche.

Over the last decade, film-based tourism has flourished in East Asian countries. China has the Hengdian World Studios in Zhejiang Province; Japan, the Toei Kyoto Studio Park in Kyoto; and South Korea, the Suncheon Drama Film Set in South Jeolla Province.

On the official site of Korea Tourism Organization, along with other conventional forms of travel, the Hallyu (The Korean Wave) tourism is on display with various choices of series and movie locations for visitors. The South Korean government has invested heavily in the entertainment industry and Korea’s national televisions like KBS, SBS and MBC have their own film studios.

In fact, many Vietnamese citizens are already familiar with the locations for TV drama "Winter Sonata" or the recent Oscar winning movie "Parasite".

Ha Van Sieu, deputy director general of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism said: "Film-induced tourism is not a new form of travel in Vietnam. It is just that we still do not have a suitable and correct way of approaching it."

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