Ha Long enters new, exciting era of tourism

By Phat Dat   July 25, 2019 | 11:00 pm PT
Cultural events, modern entertainment and newly-cleaned beaches have added to the charm of Ha Long, hitherto known only for its karst topography.

While foreign and Vietnamese tourists have for long flocked to Ha Long to admire its distinctive limestone islets, the town used to lack cultural events, modern entertainment or attractive beaches to extend the duration of their visits.

But that is finally changing thanks to a major makeover that is also transforming Ha Long's image.

When Ha Long Bay was recognized as a world natural heritage by UNESCO in 1994, people in Quang Ninh Province and its capital Ha Long imagined a bright future for their tourism industry.

Ha Long Bay.

Ha Long Bay.

Every year Ha Long started to see millions of tourists from all over the world, but very few actually stayed for any length of time. They were merely coming to see Ha Long Bay, a ‘natural wonder of the world’, a place you "must see in your lifetime."

The town itself was little more than a pit stop. Most tourists simply clambered off a bus before boarding a traditional junk and setting off across the bay to sightsee. When they returned to shore, there were not enough activities or attractions in Ha Long to keep them entertained for a few days. Besides enjoying dinner at a seafood restaurant, for more than two decades, most visitors rarely had anything else to do.

But now a number of projects developed by Sun Group is transforming Ha Long’s image and encouraging visitors to stick around.

When it first outlined its strategic vision for the town, one of the primary goals of Sun Group, working in collaboration with Quang Ninh authorities, was to clean up and restore Bai Chay beach.

For too many years it had been plagued by pollution caused by mining and urban expansion; people had little interest in spending time there.

But by treating wastewater, replacing the sand and building the magnificent Bai Chay Bridge, which has colorful LED lights on at night, Sun Group has transformed Bai Chay beach, and its white sands and clear waters now attract visitors throughout the year especially during holidays.

And that was just the beginning of Sun Group’s plan to make Ha Long a more attractive tourist destination. In 2016 Sun World Halong Complex, a world-class amusement complex, opened.

Sun World Halong Complex.

Sun World Halong Complex.

Industry observers said this was the inflection point for Ha Long, which means ‘Descending Dragon’ in Vietnamese.

You could say that Sun World Halong Complex awakened the dragon from a long slumber. Now people visiting Ha Long can enjoy wonderful panoramic views of Ha Long Bay and Ha Long Town from the cable car and Sun Wheel atop Ba Deo Hill.

The Dragon Theme Park and Typhoon Water Park also have a lot to offer guests like, for instance, Asia’s longest and most fascinating rollercoaster besides many other exciting games and rides.

Since the opening of Sun World Halong Complex, it is no coincidence that hotels and resorts in the town center are always fully booked during holidays. If you want to stay near Bai Chay, you need to book hotel rooms at least one week in advance. Good restaurants in the town center too are often filled to capacity during peak seasons.

Surge in tourism

A spokesperson for Vietrantour Travel Company said: "The appearance of Sun World Halong Complex has contributed greatly to the attractiveness of Ha Long Bay. When Sun Group launched Sun World Halong Complex, Quang Ninh and Halong saw a big surge in tourism."

In 2018 Quang Ninh received 12.2 million visitors, up 24 percent against the previous year, including 5.2 million foreigners, a 22 percent increase, with a large number coming to Ha Long. Tourism revenues reached VND24 trillion ($1.03 billion), up 28.1 percent.

It is expected that 2019 will see even better figures as Quang Ninh and Ha Long look set to grow from strength to strength.

All boats rise with the tide

There is no doubt that the construction of Bai Chay Bridge, cleanup of Bai Chay beach and development of Sun World Halong Complex has energized the town. And there are even more plans in the pipeline from Sun Group, which has strategically set out to develop a whole tourism ecosystem around the Bai Chay area. As the old saying goes, "All boats rise with the tide."

Located right next to the Sun World Halong Complex, Sun Premier Village Resort Ha Long Bay offers visitors resort villas and shophouses.

At Sun Plaza Grand World – Shophouse Europe, Sun Group has recreated the architectural splendors of Vienna, and the place also serves as a center for amusement, culture and art.

Sun Premier Village Resort Ha Long Bay offers visitors resort villas and shophouses.

Sun Premier Village Resort Ha Long Bay offers visitors resort villas and shophouses.

The Sun Carnival Ha Long Square was inaugurated during the 2018 Ha Long Carnival festival, a new annual cultural extravaganza that attracts visitors and entertains residents with its festive atmosphere, light shows, music, dance and more at the square.

Hotspot for festivals

Sun Group has been working closely with local authorities to make Ha Long a hotspot for festival tourism. A number of cultural events and festivals have been held since the beginning of 2017, including a Flower Festival, the 2018 Carnaval Halong, the Four Seasons Festival, and the 2018 Sunrise Festival.

Many more cultural and artistic activities will be organized at the Sun World Halong Complex through 2019 to make Ha Long an even more exciting destination year-round.

Nguyen Van Tuan, a former director general of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said: "The new tourism products of Sun Group have contributed to positively changing Ha Long, especially around the Bai Chay area. We have not only seen an increase in the number of visitors, but also a ripple effect through the town. Hotels are often filled to capacity, and there has been an increase in the production and circulation of goods."

Looking ahead, major projects will continue to help Quang Ninh and Ha Long in particular achieve rapid and sustainable socio-economic growth.

As Sun Group continues to develop a complete tourism ecosystem and prepares to open a five-star resort near Bai Chay, Ha Long is on its way to becoming one of Vietnam’s most popular destinations.

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