Blackouts prompt foreign tourists to flee northern Vietnam

By Xanh Le   June 12, 2023 | 06:58 pm PT
Blackouts prompt foreign tourists to flee northern Vietnam
People gather on a bridge in Ha Long for cool air during a blackout, June 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tan
Many foreign tourists who flocked to the northern region to enjoy summer holidays have changed their travel itineraries or returned home early due to massive power outages.

Singaporean Weichao, 32, visited Ha Long with his friends in early June, but the power went out on the first night of his trip.

"We couldn't stand being in our hotel because it was too hot," he said.

The power was suddenly cut on the second night as well. Desperate, Weichao and his group were forced to sit on the lobby floor and fan themselves through the night.

After talking to local residents, Weichao learned that the massive power outages could last even longer over the next few days. So he and his friends cut their trip short, packed their luggage, and returned home.

Many parts of Ha Long, home to a UNESCO world heritage site bay and beautiful beaches, have been suffering sudden power cuts over the past several days, affecting the tourism industry during the peak summer travel season.

Indian Ganesh Krishnan and his wife booked a rental in Ha Long through Airbnb.

After they arrived, Krishnan was about to visit a grocery store to stock up on provisions for their stay. But then the power suddenly went out.

"My wife was scared. She called me and I rushed back because the street lights were out," he said.

When Krishnan returned to the Airbnb, the whole neighborhood was covered in darkness.

"I had to walk up the stairs to get to the 8th floor and it was such a horrible experience," he said.

He tried booking another four or five-star hotel, but he could not reach anyone due to the blackout.

"We decided to stay overnight," he said. "But we couldn’t sleep due to the heat. That was a terrible travel experience."

The next morning when power resumed, the Indian couple immediately packed up their luggage and left their homestay.

Vietnam has received 4.6 million international tourists so far this year, around 60% of the year’s target of 8 million.

Now is the peak summer travel season for the tourism industry as many families flock to beach tourist hubs for holiday escapes

Under the impact of El Nino weather pattern, the north has experienced less rain and more heat waves, with temperatures sometimes climbing to 40 degrees Celsius.

Tran Viet Hoa, director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority, said supply in the north (including imported electricity) is equivalent to 17,500-17,900 MW, while demand is about 20,000 MW and could reach 23,500-24,000 MW during hot periods.

The region thus faces a daily shortfall of 30.9 million kWh on average, rising to 50.8 million kWh during peak days, so EVN has been cutting power in the north unannounced.

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