Move over Rome: Summer travelers turn to Saigon, Mumbai for fresh experience

By Vi Vu   May 29, 2017 | 10:58 am GMT+7
Move over Rome: Summer travelers turn to Saigon, Mumbai for fresh experience
Ho Chi Minh City at night. Photo by Y Nguyen Dinh Quyen/VnExpress Photo Contest

New travel data from American Express show that bookings for Saigon have almost doubled.

More travelers are looking outside their comfort zones and off the beaten paths for their summer vacations, a trend that is catapulting lesser known cities such as Saigon and Mumbai into new stardom.

A MarketWatch report, citing data from American Express, showed that bookings to Vietnam’s largest city in April and May increased a whopping 97 percent compared to the same period last year.

Even though long-time favorites like Rome and New York continue to enjoy their popularity, emerging destinations are rising from under with impressive growth rates, according to the report.

Maldives, Bilbao and Mumbai are named alongside Ho Chi Minh City.

MarketWatch noted that Europe's locales, notably Paris and Turkey, have been hurt by a series of attacks. Meanwhile, other locations have benefited from new flight routes and favorable exchange rates.

“The world has opened up to travelers, as more people look to cities and countries that have a lot to offer but aren’t necessarily top-of-mind when it comes to vacation planning,” Christine Sarkis, deputy executive editor at SmarterTravel, was quoted as saying.

Ho Chi Minh City is the country’s top destination in terms of foreign arrivals.

American arrivals to Vietnam increased more than 9 percent in the first five months to nearly 270,000, compared to the same period last year. Visitors from Europe surged 24 percent to 873,500.

Foreign exchange rates provided by Vietcombank, one of the top lenders, show that the Vietnamese dong has fallen 1.56 percent against the U.S. dollar over the past year, and 1.37 percent against the euro.

The southern megacity has planned to add 1,000 rooms by year end as it expects a 15 percent increase of foreign arrivals to six million, according to a report released last week by the JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.

Named by Conde Nast Traveler among the 50 most beautiful cities in the world, Ho Chi Minh City is fast becoming an international tourist destination, the report said, forecasting that various promotion efforts such as upgrading museums and approving a safari will ensure sustainable tourism development.

Many tourists favor the city as a modern commercial center with a lot of history that can be felt at places like the War Remnants Museum and the Independence Palace.

Food and Wine, one of the most respected lifestyle magazines, recently also hailed the city, with its luxury and convenience, as one of the ideal places for retiree travelers.

The city was ranked among the fastest growing tourist cities by MasterCard last September, and many travel sites say it is an ideal destination for backpackers.

Price of Travel, a database of travel costs, last month ranked Ho Chi Minh City the world's third cheapest city where backpack tourists will only need $18.33 a day for meals, beer, a place to stay, public transport rides and entrance fee to a top attraction.