HCMC pins high hopes on river tourism

By Bich Phuong, Van Khanh   August 8, 2023 | 12:00 am PT
HCMC pins high hopes on river tourism
A part of the Saigon River at Bach Dang Wharf Park in District 1, January 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
After Ho Chi Minh City hosted its first-ever river festival last weekend, Vietnam’s southern metropolis is betting on waterway transport as a new driver for tourism growth.

A three-day river festival opened on August 4 for the first time, with a series of cultural and entertainment activities related to the city's waterways for locals and tourists.

The festival will become an annual event and its scale will be expanded in the coming years, said Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, director of the municipal tourism department.

HCMC currently has 20 river tours, with mid-range routes from the downtown area to the outlying districts Cu Chi and Can Gio, as well as long-range routes to the Mekong Delta and Cambodia’s Phnom Penh.

Before 2025, HCMC is expected to develop 10 more river tours and diversify waterway travel experiences, Hoa added.

The landscape on both sides of the Saigon River will be improved, while tourism services will be renewed. The river will become a cultural symbol and economic highlight of Ho Chi Minh City, Hoa stressed.

A representative of one travel company in Ho Chi Minh City said that cruise tours along the Saigon River have become increasingly popular.

Each month, the company serves 3-4 groups of foreign tourists from Europe, the U.S. and Australia who join a cruise tour from half a day to a day.

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of leading tour operator Vietravel, said that the current river tourism products in HCMC have a lot of potential for development and the tourism industry should consider developing inter-regional routes, allowing people to learn more about culture and history of HCMC.

The development of river tours still faces more challenges in terms of administrative procedures, limited mooring berths and poor infrastructure.

In addition, littering along both sides of the Saigon River and polluted canals have triggered complaints among tourists, making it difficult for travel companies to develop new tourism products.

The Saigon River, spanning 256 km, begins in Binh Phuoc and runs through Tay Ninh, Binh Duong and HCMC. There are almost 50 factories, industrial parks and other production facilities in the upstream section of the river that pose serious pollution risks.

Between January and July, HCMC welcomed more than 2.3 million international tourists, mainly from South Korea, China, and the U.S.

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