Wanna visit Hanoi after seeing this CNN ad? This survey bets you will

By Staff reporters   January 22, 2018 | 01:12 am PT
But will it matter in the long term as industry experts complain ads focus too much on overcrowded and touristy places?

TV commercials aired by U.S. broadcaster CNN have been introducing Hanoi to people around the world for the past year, sparking an interest in travel to Vietnam's capital.

The network started airing two commercials featuring the best of the 1,000-year-old capital in early March last year as part of a $2 million tourism deal with Hanoi.

In “Hanoi – Heart of Vietnam” and “Hanoi – Cradle of Heritage”, Australian travel writer Phoebe Lee visits the city’s most popular sites – the red The Huc Bridge across Hoan Kiem Lake, Saint Joseph's Cathedral, the Temple of Literature, which was Vietnam’s first university, the Perfume Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

She is also seen enjoying a cyclo tour, a motorbike ride and a chat with a street vendor.

The ads have resulted in 92 percent of viewers saying they'd like to travel to Hanoi, a survey by U.K. research firm BDRC Continental has found.

Hanoi lured five million foreign tourists last year, up 23 percent against 2016, according to official data, and the city hopes the commercials will entice more in the year to come.

But many locals and experts say the efforts and money that Hanoi has spent will be in vain if tourists experience low-quality services.

It would be better if the city could guarantee quality services so that tourists want to come back for more.

Return tourism is a problem for Vietnam, even though the country welcomed a record 12.9 million foreign visitors in 2017, up 29.1 percent from the previous year, according to the General Statistics Office.

Official data published in August last year shows that 80 percent of foreign visitors don't return to Vietnam.

Another problem that insiders want Vietnam to improve on is that it prioritizes certain tourist destinations.

“The biggest complaint is how the Vietnamese tourism industry focuses too much on the Five H's - plus S for Sa Pa - which are overcrowded now and have lost their ambiance and charm,” Carl Robinson, a former American war correspondent who used to lead tours in Vietnam, told VnExpress International in September last year, referring to Vietnam’s five top tourist destinations: Hanoi, Ha Long, Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City.

“Why aren't tourists visiting other more off-the-map places where they can still experience the 'real' Vietnam? Most people are satisfied with doing the same-same as everybody else and where they are basically hanging with other tourists in bars and restaurants,” he said.

“The only Vietnamese they meet are in many ways the hustlers and hasslers. It makes a bad impression and no wonder people don't come back,” he added.

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