Poor nightlife services disappoint foreign tourists

By Xanh Le   June 21, 2023 | 03:32 pm PT
Poor nightlife services disappoint foreign tourists
Foreign tourists on a pedestrian street in downtown Hue, March 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh
Many foreign tourists complained they have limited entertainment options at night in Vietnam's major cities as most establishments and eateries close by 10 p.m., leaving them few opportunities to spend money.

After joining a one-day tour in Ninh Binh in northern Vietnam, Singaporean tourist Dave Tang, 32, and his group returned to Hanoi and planned to party until midnight but they were shocked as many entertainment venues closed at 10 p.m.

"We tried to find eateries to eat dinner but only street food was there," he said of his first trip to Hanoi recently.

"So we walked quite a bit, about three km, and as far as I remember it took us almost half an hour just to find a convenience store to get some beer, bread and then go back to hotel.

"We brought $500 and thought that we would spend all of money in one night in Hanoi and then we went back to the hotel room disappointed."

He said he had little opportunity to spend money due to the lack of sightseeing and entertainment activities.

In Singapore during weekdays or weekends, bars and night clubs close at 1 or 2 a.m. and then revelers can go to other pubs that close later at 3 a.m.

Entertainment venues in Bangkok often operate all night.

Turkish man Zyan, 33, who has been living in Hanoi for more than five years, said he feels bored with nightlife services in the capital.

"It's really boring and like there is almost no nightlife in Hanoi," he said.

Zyan said there were no entertainment options in Hanoi except Ta Hien beer street, with just a few bars that are always crowded and cramped on weekends.

Recently Zyan and his friends visited Da Nang, famous for its long, sandy beaches, but they were surprised most establishments in the central city closed before 11 p.m.

"Around 9 p.m. we got dressed and went out for entertainment. We booked a Grab service to a night market but when we got there, people started cleaning up everything and closing their stalls," he said.

"The whole group was hungry, so thought we would go to the city center to find something to eat, but the shops had all begun to close, leaving only three pubs or sidewalk cafes open."

In 2019, before the onset of the pandemic, the city received a record 18 million foreign visitors, but they spent little.

The average spending by a visitor was $7.5 per night, only 7.5% of what they would spend in Singapore and a fourth of the spending in Thailand, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

Miquel Angel, CEO of the MQL sustainable travel solutions company, said 80% of middle-class and high-end tourists feel bored by a lack of night activities in Vietnam.

"Eight out of every 10 tourists said Vietnam was too quiet at night and it was difficult for them to find entertainment options. About 80% of tourists did not spend money at night while staying in Vietnam," Angel said.

Pham Trung Luong, a tourism analyst, said Vietnam had too few unique travel experiences or nightlife for foreign tourists to spend on top of the visa hassles.

"The tourism industry is unwilling to change its products, and foreign tourists are bored and hesitate to return," Luong said.

Neighboring countries like Thailand have done a good job in developing night activities, he added.

Over the past years, Hanoi, HCMC, Hue and Da Nang have made efforts to boost the night-time economy by organizing night street art performances and opening new pedestrian streets and food courts.

Da Nang authorities opened a food street near Nam O fishing village in Lien Chieu District in April and diversified nightlife activities in An Thuong backpacker precinct in Ngu Hanh Son District.

Hue last March opened a new walking zone on Hai Ba Trung Street.

HCMC, Vietnam’s southern metropolis, opened a new pedestrian street near the Turtle Lake in the downtown area in January and a food hub on Nguyen Thuong Hien Street last December, while Hanoi also lured night-time tourists by building a second night-time food zone in Truc Bach Peninsula.

But tourism insiders said nightlife experiences in Vietnam’s major cities offered nothing new compared to Thailand.

In the first five months of this year the country received 4.6 million international visitors, more than half this year's target of 8 million but just 63% of pre-pandemic levels.

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