How strategic investors transforming Vietnam’s tourism landscape

By Phat Dat    May 8, 2019 | 07:30 pm PT
A number of outstanding new tourism products have been helping draw international visitors to Vietnam and boosting tourism in recent years.

Elevating the ‘roof of Indochina’

For many years, Sa Pa in Lao Cai Province had been a gateway to the north of Vietnam, a heavenly realm of stunning mountains and lush valleys.

The most intrepid of travelers went to conquer Fansipan, also known as the "Roof of Indochina".

Scaling the precipitous slopes of Fansipan, 3,143 meters tall and a national symbol, to reach the peak was a two-day expedition that could only be undertaken by those in good physical condition.

But in February 2016 that changed with the inauguration of a cable car system that takes visitors from the departure station in Sun World Fansipan Legend to the top of Fansipan in under 20 minutes.

Installed at a cost of thousands of billions of dong ($1 = VND23,380) by Sun Group, Vietnam’s premier developer of luxury resorts, amusement and leisure complexes, the cable-car system has transformed the tourism experience for visitors to Sa Pa.

Stretching about 6,292 meters, making it the world’s longest non-stop three-rope cable car, the system has the capacity to take 2,000 tourists per hour up a breath-taking 1,410 m elevation. Riding in the cabin is exhilarating with breathtaking views of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, gorgeous terraced rice fields, valleys, and villages where hill tribes thrive.

Adding further tourism appeal to Sa Pa is a new complex of spiritual buildings and shrines at the very top of Fansipan also developed by Sun Group as part of Sun World Fansipan Legend.

The cable-car system in Sa Pa is the world’s longest non-stop three-rope cable car.

The cable-car system in Sa Pa is the world’s longest non-stop three-rope cable car.

Once a sleepy town, now Sa Pa is buzzing with tourists. In 2016 Lao Cai Province welcomed 2.7 million tourists and generated VND6.4 trillion ($275 million) in revenues. In 2017 these rose to 3.5 million and VND9.44 trillion ($406 million).

In 2018 the number of tourists coming to Sa Pa town alone was 3.2 million, more than twice the number in 2014 when 1.74 million visited.

A new dawn for travel and leisure in Ha Long

Sun Group has also directed strategic investment toward Quang Ninh Province in the Northeast. In 2015 over 7.7 million tourists visited Quang Ninh, home to UNESCO world heritage site Ha Long Bay, generating VND6.55 trillion ($282 million) in revenues.

In 2018 there were 12.2 million visitors and revenues soared to over VND24 trillion ($1.03 billion).

One of the main factors behind this spike in tourism is another of Sun Group’s major developments, Sun World Halong Complex, an amusement complex situated right on the Gulf of Tonkin, which opened in 2016.

Sun World Halong Complex is the biggest entertainment real estate project in Quang Ninh.

Sun World Halong Complex is the biggest entertainment real estate project in Quang Ninh.

Featuring three parks including the complex of Queen Cable Car, Sun Wheel, and Zen Garden in Ba Deo top; Dragon Theme Park; and Typhoon Water Park, Sun World Halong Complex has created an added huge appeal for Ha Long as a tourism destination.

In summer months the occupancy rate of hotels near the amusement parks is usually 90-100 percent. While in the past visitors may have spent one afternoon to sail around Ha Long Bay, now there is much more on offer to keep families and groups entertained.

"It is evident that the entertainment venues and amusement parks developed by Sun Group have contributed to improving the image of Quang Ninh and brought many new tourism attractions to the province," Pham Ngoc Thuy, director of the provincial Department of Tourism, said.

In general, the transformation of tourist destinations thanks to the strategic investment by Sun Group has contributed positively to the tourism landscape throughout Vietnam.

The launch of major projects invested by Sun Group generates a spillover effect on other hospitality companies.

The launch of major projects invested by Sun Group generates a spillover effect on other hospitality companies.

The company has developed major tourism projects in Phu Quoc Island and Da Nang City, two of the country’s leading tourism destinations.

In 2007 Vietnam only received around 4.2 million international visitors and earned revenues of VND56 trillion. By 2017 it had become one of the world’s 10 fastest growing tourist destinations in terms of international arrival numbers.

Honored at Vietnam Tourism Awards

It is notable that the 2018 Vietnam Tourism Awards honored many leading enterprises that have made a significant contribution to tourism development in Vietnam, including Sun Group, Vingroup, Thien Minh, FLC, and Muong Thanh.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Nguyen Van Tuan, former head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said: "In the past six years Vietnamese tourism has made great progress in terms of attracting tourists and investment, improving infrastructure, developing tourism products and services, and policy changes, which are boosting tourism property development.

"The most prominent factors behind these accomplishments have been the large-scale projects and high-quality, attractive tourism products that have drawn investment from strategic investors and top tourism businesses.

"These investments have contributed to improving infrastructure and accommodation and creating luxury tourism products that can gradually contribute to the shaping of Vietnam’s tourism brand as well as the attractiveness of destinations in Vietnam."

He added that strategic investors have been game-changers in promoting destinations.

"In Bai Chay, Ha Long, for instance, the launch of major projects invested by Sun Group not only creates excitement, but also generates a spillover effect with higher capacity and prices for hotel rooms. It also helps stimulate the production, distribution and circulation of goods, and brings other major benefits to residential communities, for example, restaurant owners, shopkeepers, and even motorbike taxi drivers and street vendors."

Agreeing with this assessment, Le Cong Nang, head of marketing and communication at Vietrantour, said: "This significant investment by giant corporations in tourism infrastructure, recreational facilities and tourism development in key destinations such as Sa Pa, Ha Long, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Quy Nhon, Da Nang has helped travel agencies manage their tours more effectively, enhance service quality and attract tourists to these destinations.

"In addition, the construction projects by strategic investors, especially Sun Group, are all large-scale, high-quality and outstanding ones. This increases the capacity and attractiveness of tourist destinations."

It is clear that tourism is fast becoming a key economic sector of the country. While there are many challenges to its continuing development, there are also opportunities at every turn.

Having a shared goal with government authorities to transform the country’s tourism landscape, strategic investors such as Sun Group have taken the lead in transforming Vietnam into one of the world’s most exciting destinations.

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