Hanoi trails regional tourist hubs in attracting visitors

By Hoang Phong   January 19, 2020 | 09:41 pm PT
Hanoi trails regional tourist hubs in attracting visitors
Foreign tourists take a cyclo ride around Hanoi in February 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Duong.
Despite hosting international events and a big jump in arrivals notwithstanding, Hanoi received fewer foreign tourists in 2019 than some major Asian destinations.

A 17 percent rise in 2019 took the number of Hanoi's foreign arrivals to 7.02 million, but it was only a fourth of Hong Kong’s and a third of Bangkok and Singapore’s, according to a report released last Saturday by the city tourism department. The number of international visitors to Kuala Lumpur was double that of Hanoi.

Despite being the country’s capital and a popular tourist destination that has constantly received global plaudits, Hanoi still vexed many tourists with its lack of nightlife compared to other Asian metropolises, the department stated.

Nguyen Gia Phuong, director of Hanoi’s Investment, Trade, and Tourism Promotion Centre, said the city lacks food and shopping outlets and signature tourism products.

The report noted the average daily spending by foreign visitors last year in Hanoi was $119.8, a year-on-year increase of 7 percent, but far below the amounts spent in Dubai ($537), Paris ($301) and Singapore ($286). In Phuket and Bangkok in Thailand they spent $239 and $173, and in Seoul it was $181.

The average length of stay in Hanoi was 3.67 days.

Linda, an American tourist who came to Vietnam last July, said: "Tourists do not know where to spend money. When in need, I really do not know what to buy and where to buy products at reasonable prices because at every tourist destination I can see the same products but the prices vary several times."

Nguyen Tien Dat, deputy director of Hanoi-based TransViet Travel, said foreign tourists always complain about poor shopping options.

"In Hanoi, although the number of visitors has increased in recent years, tourism services and products to serve tourists have not."

All amusement and business establishments in the capital like bars, pubs, restaurants, and shops start winding down before midnight when police patrols set out, reminding them to shut down, turn off the electricity and clear motorbikes off the sidewalk and street.

Authorities do not allow public activities after midnight, except in the downtown Hoan Kiem District area during weekends, when 2 a.m. is the deadline.

The lack of nighttime activities irks not only tourists but even long-term expatriates.

In 2019 the city hosted the historic second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, putting it in the global limelight.

Hanoi officials signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S. cable news channel CNN to continue its tourism promotion campaign on social media and air documentaries until 2024.

In 2020 the city targets 8.22 million foreign arrivals.

The number of foreign tourists to Vietnam reached a record 18 million last year. With its visa waivers, the government expects 20.5 million visitors in 2020 and revenues of $35 billion, equivalent to 10 percent of GDP.

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