Limited night entertainment options a headache for Vietnam tourism

By Phuong Anh   July 7, 2023 | 03:51 pm PT
Limited night entertainment options a headache for Vietnam tourism
Spanish tourists drink beer on Bui Vien Street in HCMC, August 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Tin
On the second night, tour guide Le Hai Dang who has 20 years experience, did not know where to take his tourists to hang out in Hanoi, except Ta Hien beer street in the Old Quarter.

Vietnam’s nighttime economy has yet to flourish as foreign tourist spending on entertainment and sightseeing activities in Vietnam remains much lower than in neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Singapore.

"Many foreign tourists have little opportunity to spend money at night in Vietnam," Dang said.

A survey from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism showed that the spending of international visitors to Vietnam in 2018 was mainly for room rental and dining, both accounting a total of 60%.

Shopping and entertainment activities accounted for only 20% and the rest was other expenses.

In 2009, the average spending of foreign tourists in Vietnam was $1,000 per person. Some 10 years later their spending only increased by 1.2 times. Expenses for food, travel, and shopping increased, but spending on entertainment and sightseeing activities remains largely unchanged.

2019 was the "peak" year of tourism when Vietnam welcomed a record of 18 million international visitors. According to the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), the average spending of foreigners in Vietnam was $1,200 with an average stay of more than nine days per person.

In Thailand, which welcomed 40 million international visitors the same year, foreign tourists’ spending doubled than in Vietnam, reaching $2,400-2,500 with the same average length of stay.

Currently, the government has approved a proposal to increase the validity of the e-visa to 90 days.

"So foreign tourists can stay in Vietnam longer but the fact is that they "have nothing to enjoy when staying more than one night in a city," Dang said.

Dang pointed out that "music and art performances are all in Vietnamese, so how do foreigners understand?"

Over two nights in Hanoi, foreign tourists mainly hang out at Ta Hien beer street and have little options to do. Famous programs such as the Discover Hoa Lo - Sacred Night tour are only available on Friday and Saturday while other shows such as Quintessence of the North, Hoi An Memories and A O Show in Ho Chi Minh City are only available for one night a week.

Miquel Angel, CEO of the MQL sustainable travel solutions company, said 80% of middle-class and high-end tourists felt bored by a lack of night activities in Vietnam.

"Eight out of every 10 tourists said Vietnam was too quiet at night and it was difficult for them to find entertainment options. About 80% of tourists did not spend money at night while staying in Vietnam," Angel said.

Both Thailand and Singapore boast strong nighttime economies and most visitors’ spending focused on nightlife. Bangkok and Singapore are known as "the cities that never sleep in Asia."

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of tour operator Vietravel, said the diversity of shopping and night entertainment were strategic problems for the tourism industry.

The government could consider expanding shopping activities at night markets and convenience stores from 5 p.m. until 6 a.m. next morning to boost foreign tourist spending.

Hoang said that in the past, many localities had focused on developing night walking streets. However, due to the lack of reasonable planning, these models were inefficient. In many places, entertainment, cultural and night programs were still limited.

In the first half of this year, the tourism industry earned VND343 trillion, more than half of this year’s target of VND650 trillion.

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