Surge of Thai visitors lifts Da Nang hopes for tourism market diversity

By Nguyen Quy   August 18, 2019 | 08:17 pm PT
Surge of Thai visitors lifts Da Nang hopes for tourism market diversity
The Golden Bridge at Ba Na Hills near Da Nang. Photo by Shutterstock/hoami.
Da Nang, which wants to reduce its dependence on Chinese and South Korean tourists, is seeing a jump in the number of Thai visitors.

With 60 weekly flights connecting Vietnam’s third largest city with major Thai destinations, the number of Thai arrivals to Da Nang quadrupled year-on-year in the first seven months of this year to almost 107,000.

Thais accounted for 6 percent of Da Nang's total foreign arrivals, becoming the third largest group after South Koreans (1 million, making up 57 percent) and Chinese (500,000 or 26 percent), according to the city’s tourism department.

Domestic and foreign carriers, betting on this trend, have been racing to launch more flights. Vietnamese budget carrier Vietjet Air last year launched flights from Da Nang to Bangkok. In April Malaysian-owned budget airline Thai AirAsia began a daily service from Chiang Mai to Da Nang.

Da Nang is a major economy-tourism hub that attracts many foreign visitors, including Thai tourists, all year round, Santisuk Khlongchaiya, head of Thai AirAsia’s commercial operations, said.

From Da Nang, tourists can easily travel to world-renowned destinations such as Hoi An, Hue and My Son, he added.

Da Nang, home to Asia’s most beautiful beach, My Khe, in the central region and next door to the UNESCO heritage site Hoi An, an ancien town, has long been a favorite for South Korean and Chinese visitors.

However, its heavy dependence on the two markets poses a risk, city tourism officials said.

"The Chinese market is volatile due to political and economic reasons," Truong Hong Hanh, Deputy Director of the city Tourism Department, said.

"The surge in number of Chinese arrivals also presents numerous challenges for the Vietnamese government such as ‘zero dollar tours,’ the use of Chinese electronic wallets such as WeChat Pay and AliPay and illegal payment devices at travel hotspots frequented by Chinese tourists that could circumvent Vietnam’s banking system and national regulations, leading to loss of tax revenues and other potential problems."

Meanwhile, the overseas travel trend of South Korean tourists is "very changeable", Hanh added.

Da Nang tourism authorities said they were therefore looking at diversifying the tourism market away from Chinese and South Koreans by working with airlines to launch more flights to and from other markets.

Tourists enjoy the blue sea in Da Nang in central Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

Tourists enjoy the blue sea in Da Nang in central Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong.

Indonesia’s Sriwijaya Air is expected to begin services between Jakarta and Da Nang, while Cambodia’s Angkor Air is set to launch flights from Phnom Penh and Vientiane, both by year-end.

City authorities also said they are striving to attract more Middle Eastern visitors, whose spending is higher than that of other Asians and Europeans.

Last year Qatar Airways began flying from the Qatari capital Doha to Da Nang.

The city's foreign arrivals in January-July was 1.9 million, up 11.2 percent year-on-year, with some of the biggest source markets posting huge growth. The number of visitors from Taiwan increased by 86 percent, while it was 81.5 percent for Germany, 79 percent for India, 70 percent for Malaysia, 68 percent for France, and 53 percent for Singapore.

Da Nang, which has won global attention with its annual international fireworks competitions in June-July and its spectacular Golden Bridge, has been improving its transport, healthcare, commercial, and services infrastructure to cope with the rising number of tourists.

Images of the two giant hands holding up the 150 meters long Golden Bridge at Ba Na Hills have gone viral since its launch in June last year.

The New York Times earlier this year included the city in its 52 best places to visit in 2019 while Australian travel website Finder listed it among 10 trending global destinations this year.

Last year Da Nang received 7.6 million visitors, 2.87 million of them foreigners, a 23.3 percent increase year-on-year.

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