Hanoi's night-time economy yet to take off

By Tu Nguyen   August 22, 2023 | 05:33 am PT
Hanoi's night-time economy yet to take off
Foreigners drink beer at Ta Hien backpacker area in Hanoi's Old Quarter, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Dinh
Though Hanoi has the potential to develop its late-night offerings, the nighttime economy has not yet taken off due to lack of incentive policies and clear planning, experts have said.

"Hanoi's night-time economy has recently seen positive signs, but not yet to gain takeoff momentum. The main reason is due to the lack of incentive policies to attract investment in night tourism products," said Dang Huong Giang, director of Hanoi's Department of Tourism.

"Hanoi also lacks planning to build separate night tourism complexes while many bars and restaurants in the Old Quarter are located in crowded residential areas, making it difficult to stay open after midnight," she said.

Nguyen Tien Dat, general director of Hanoi-based tour operator AZA Travel, said the night economy refers to entertainment activities from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning, but in Hanoi most business establishments close not long after 11 p.m.

Dat compared the situation to destinations like Thailand’s Pattaya, which can be full of partygoers well into the early hours.

Grant Wilson, a 61-year-old Australian who has been to Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, said, "I would like Hanoi to develop some more night market and entertainment activities because often, the only thing available to do is sit on the sidewalk and drink beer, and it gets boring."

Starting September 2016, Hanoi allowed restaurants and bars in Hoan Kiem to open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. However, the authorities also made it clear that businesses that stay open past midnight must meet strict security criteria, register with district authorities, and install soundproofed establishments.

Business owners said they are often under scrutiny from local police officers.

Hoang Anh, owner of a restaurant and bar that has been operating for over 10 years in Ta Hien beer hub, said, "The area is usually crowded after 11 p.m., but ward officials often come to encourage us to start closing up so as not to affect local people."

According to business owners, the rent in Ta Hien area is expensive, at around VND70-100 million (US$2,940-4,200) per month for a ground floor and more than VND200 million if renting a whole house.

Anh hopes the city will soon relax opening hours so businesses can make more money.

A number of tourism attractions in the city have offered tours designed especially for evenings in recent times. Thang Long Imperial Citadel, a World Heritage site, has created a 120-minute night tour called "Decoding the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long."

In July 2022, Hoa Lo Prison in the city also launched night tours. Using light and sound effects, the 45-minute tour, called "Sacred Night - Glorious Vietnamese Spirit," tells the story of the prison, once called "hell on earth".

The tours are available every Friday-Sunday and are not recommended for children under 16 years of age.

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