Specialized ports hold key to Vietnam cruise tourism growth

By Phat Dat   May 28, 2019 | 08:00 pm PT
Ha Long International Cruise Port could be an example of how a dedicated cruise port could give a fillip to the country's marine tourism.

The country’s first specialized cruise port, which opened at the end of 2018, has become a focal point for Quang Ninh’s tourism activities.

The northern province received 56,000 arrivals in the first four months of this year, or 47 percent of all foreign visitors coming to Vietnam by sea.

According to a Ha Long International Cruise Port spokesperson, the vessels that have docked were mainly super-luxury cruise ships coming from Hong Kong and Singapore and five-star ships from other continents such as the UK's Columbus and Sydney's Seven Seas Mariner.

They have become a significant source of revenue for Ha Long tourism.

Besides, an inland port - Ha Long Passenger Terminal - was inaugurated just before the country’s Reunification Day, April 30.

Vietnam is in the top four countries in East and Southeast Asia in terms of the number of yachts that visit it each year.

Vietnam is in the top four countries in East and Southeast Asia in terms of the number of yachts that visit it each year.

As apart of the VND1.1 trillion ($47.03 million) cruise port, the inland port has four berths and can accommodate 300 cruise ships, allowing them to travel to and stay during their visit to Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Gia Luan Wharf (Cat Ba Island).

The port and its terminal were designed by acclaimed architect Bill Bensley, a factor that is deemed to have helped Ha Long International Cruise Port reach the international standards of a tourist port and distinguish itself from Vietnam’s remaining ports.

The three-story terminal has a total area of 13,500 square meters, and can accommodate up to 2,000 people. Its impressive architecture is a blend of Vietnamese and European. It has a convenient lounge, a food court, duty-free stores, and souvenir shops selling a range of local produce.

Aspiration to elevate Vietnam's cruise tourism

Ports in Vietnam used to receive both cargo and passenger ships. The latter have always been considered less important, and port operators always assigned top priority to the revenues from services such as loading, unloading, shipping and storage.

This problem affects the development of cruise tourism. In the eyes of tourism experts, this is the cause of many problems that remain unresolved: for instance, the 2018 incident when the ship Ovation of the Seas with 4,000 passengers and 1,600 crew unable to dock at Phu My Port in Ho Chi Minh City, had to explore other options before canceling its plan due to the lack of anchorage as a result of cargo ships fully occupying the port.

Ha Long International Cruise Port is the only specialized cruise port in Vietnam

Ha Long International Cruise Port is the only specialized cruise port in Vietnam.

This was just one example provided by Dr. Ha Bich Lien, a consultant to the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. in Vietnam, to explain the problem plaguing cruise tourism and its consequence, a decline in customer numbers at travel agencies. Besides, the city suffered a substantial loss of tourism revenues.

At an international conference on cruise tourism development organized by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism at the end of 2018, experts and representatives of cruise lines said the major impediment in Vietnam was its infrastructure, which was not up to scratch.

While Vietnam has been struggling, cruise tourism is a money making business in many countries around the world.

With its advantages of having a long coastline of more than 3,260 km, more than 3,000 big and small islands and impressive natural landscapes, it is time for Vietnam to understand the potential of cruise tourism and make adequate investment.

Cruise tourism will be promoted first through exclusive cruise ports, which create an instant impression on visitors and are the basic premise for Vietnam to attract more super-luxury cruises from around the world.

Specialized cruise port opens opportunities for Vietnams marine tourism development

Specialized cruise port opens opportunities for Vietnam's marine tourism development.

"Only when various economic sectors join hands can the number of specialized ports for cruise tourism increase," said Nguyen Cong Bang, deputy director of the Ministry of Transport’s transportation department.

Bang called on localities to promote their ports, encourage businesses and offer them incentives to invest in specialized ports to receive international cruise ships.

On the global cruise tourism map, East and Southeast Asia are an attractive destination with 288 spots selected as stopover points for yachts. Vietnam ranks fourth in the region behind only Japan, China and Thailand.

With the breakthrough achieved by Quang Ninh Province by soliciting private investment in Vietnam’s first specialized cruise port, it is expected that cruise tourism, or luxury tourism, will be fully exploited and see significant progress in the coming time.

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