Build nighttime services to lure foreign spending: insiders

By Xanh Le   July 19, 2023 | 07:29 pm PT
Build nighttime services to lure foreign spending: insiders
Crowds flood Bui Vien backpacker street in downtown HCMC, September 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung
Tourism experts have proposed the government build entertainment centers in major cities and allow nightlife experiences until 2 a.m. so that foreign tourists are ready to splash their cash in Vietnam.

Phan Dinh Hue, a consultant on tourism development in the Mekong Delta, said from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. was the "peak time" for parties and many people are ready to spend their money on food and entertainment activities.

However, most establishments and eateries in major cities close by 10 p.m.

In Thailand's Bangkok or Pattaya, there are art performances every night and shopping streets while entertainment venues are open until 4 a.m.

Singapore is famous for its Marina Bay Sands that covers an area of 15 hectares and houses a five-star hotel, museum, casino, food court and shopping areas to lure tourists.

Building entertainment centers combined with nightlife entertainment activities in major tourist hubs like what Thailand and Singapore have been doing is a necessary solution, Hue said.

"We should shape it so that each region will have a center that is developed with many shopping services and night entertainment services. In the Mekong Delta, there should be three entertainment centers in its largest city Can Tho, Ca Mau and Phu Quoc Island."

Miquel Angel, CEO of the MQL sustainable travel solutions company, said understanding visitor demands to provide what they need was crucial to boosting tourism revenue.

He said that Vietnam should start surveying visitor behaviors to offer the travel experiences they need.

At a national online conference on tourism development in early March, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung admitted that one of the reasons tourist spending had not met expectations was because Vietnam's tourism products have not caught up with the current global trend.

"Most of our entertainment services are still unattractive and lack investment and are only for domestic tourists," Hung said.

The lack of world-class amusement and entertainment hubs is a "big hole" of Vietnam's tourism industry. Typically, Hanoi, the capital of the country, lacks unique, competitive and attractive tourism products as well as large-scale entertainment centers and weekend resorts.

Nuno F. Ribeiro, deputy senior program manager in tourism and hospitality at RMIT, said Vietnam could consider increasing entry fees at some tourist attractions to boost its tourism revenue.

Vietnam is home to UNESCO heritage sites, historical sites and striking museums and increasing entry fees could be an ideal way to help improve tourism revenues.

Vietnam has for long been listed among the world's cheapest travel destinations by international travel magazines, meaning tourists do not expect to spend much.

In 2019, the year before the onset of the pandemic, it received a record 18 million foreign visitors, but they spent little.

The average spending by a visitor was $7.5 per night, only 7.5% of what would be spent in Singapore and a fourth of the spending in Thailand, according the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

Over the past years, Hanoi, HCMC, Hue and Da Nang have made efforts to boost the nighttime economy by organizing night street art performances and opening new pedestrian streets and food courts.

Da Nang authorities opened a food street near Nam O fishing village in Lien Chieu District in April and diversified nightlife activities in An Thuong backpacker precinct in Ngu Hanh Son District.

Hue last March opened a new walking zone on Hai Ba Trung Street.

HCMC, Vietnam’s southern metropolis, opened a new pedestrian street near the Turtle Lake in the downtown area in January and a food hub on Nguyen Thuong Hien Street last December, while Hanoi also lured nighttime tourists by building a second night food zone in Truc Bach Peninsula.

But tourism insiders have said nightlife experiences in Vietnam’s major cities offer nothing new compared to countries in the region.

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