Nascent nighttime economy needs help to boost tourism

By Tran Thanh Hiep   February 27, 2023 | 04:41 pm PT
Nascent nighttime economy needs help to boost tourism
People dine and drink at a corner of Hanoi's Ta Hien Street at night. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Vietnam has wanted to develop its nightlife economy for a long time, but we're flying blind without any clear mechanisms on exactly how we should do it.

I am a business owner who has spent 15 years working in food and beverage, and the bar and karaoke parlor industries. I would want nothing more than to see our nighttime economy thrive, especially in popular tourism cities.

I first joined the so-called "nightlife" when I was 18, working as a DJ at a bar. I had a passion for music and wanted to work in the nighttime entertainment industry once I graduated.

At 22 years old, I launched a restaurant. At 23, I switched to running bars, then karaoke parlors at 24. Time passed, and now I own 10 bars from Da Nang to other localities like Saigon, Bien Hoa, Binh Duong, Vung Tau, Da Lat and Nha Trang.

When I have enough money, I often travel to Thailand to see how they do tourism, especially their nighttime economy. I am enamored with how they manage everything: the organization, the operations, the marketing... And when I look back at Vietnam – with the multitude of beaches and forests and scenery that nature has gifted us – I only know that we have not been using our gifts correctly. And I felt regretful.

I know there are many others like me who are passionate about the tourism industry, and who want to contribute to our country's development. But the legal and financial obstacles facing nightlife tourism projects are so vast as to make most such endeavors unfeasible. For many projects that try to get off the ground, these obstacles result in the failure to be granted official approval from authorities. The embers of our youth then slowly fade with every rejection and every disappointment we face over the years.

For so long, we have wanted a nighttime economy, but we have been flying blind. There is no clear mechanism for the development of a nighttime economy, meaning that most individuals and businesses do not dare to invest in it. Most investments are thus small, menial, short-term, and lead to more consequences than benefits. I am not sure how much longer I can hang on in this industry, seeing how murky its future vision is.

I hope we can soon have appropriate policies and mechanisms for "night life" businesspeople like us to thrive and help with our country's tourism industry. In order to attract more tourists, and spread our culture, we need investors, GDP growth and foreign exchange. It is time we take our nighttime economy seriously.

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