Vietnam's sleepless city lacks night-time entertainment services

By Bich Phuong   August 11, 2023 | 03:49 pm PT
Vietnam's sleepless city lacks night-time entertainment services
Bui Vien pedestrian street after 10 p.m. in downtown HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong
Authorities are planning to bring more nighttime activities to foreign tourists in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest metropolis, which insiders say lacks nightlife.

Under a new project launched by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, tourist destinations like HCMC will develop more nighttime tourism products by 2025.

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of Vietravel, said existing night tourism products are too few for a cosmopolis like Ho Chi Minh City, which is often dubbed "the city that never sleeps."

Currently, the only tours that explore the city center are double-decker bus services, dinner boat tours on the Saigon River or boat services on Nhieu Loc canal, as well as a few nighttime experiences on Nguyen Hue and Bui Vien pedestrian streets.

Night services now mostly close at 10 p.m., and this "cannot be called night economy," she added.

The demand for international tourists for entertainment after 10 p.m. is very large and many foreign tourists are ready to "splash their cash" on midnight services, Hoang said.

In Thailand's Bangkok or Pattaya, for example, there are art performances every night and some shopping streets and entertainment venues stay open until 4 a.m.

In Singapore, on both weekdays or weekends, bars and night clubs close at 1 or 2 a.m., and then revelers can go to other "after-hours" pubs that close at 3 a.m.

Ho Chi Minh City also lacks nightlife arts programs.

The city's recent circus play "A O show" was a huge hit that attracted millions of spectators. But such one big show is still too "modest" compared to the potential of the southern metropolis, according to Hoang.

"HCMC is a convergence point for a lot of unique cultural phenomena and has a lot of human resources and potential to organize large art shows," she said.

Hoang proposed that the government consider allowing night-time services to operate until 4-5 a.m. She said authorities at the same time must ensure security and safety for visitors when visiting pedestrian streets and night markets in HCMC.

Bui Thi Ngoc Hieu, deputy director of the municipal Department of Tourism, said at a recent meeting that the city has many advantages to develop its night-time economy thanks to rich culture, unique cuisine, high degree of globalization, relatively pleasant night weather, and its large young population.

Hieu pointed out that the spending needs of tourists at night in Ho Chi Minh City account for about 70% of their expenditures, while daytime spending is only 30%. In the evening, visitors have free time outside tour programs to explore other activities in the city.

In 2009, foreign tourists spent an average of $1,000 per person per visit to Vietnam. Some 10 years later, that spending has barely increased. Expenses for food, travel, and shopping increased, but spending on entertainment and sightseeing activities remains largely unchanged.

Vietnam welcomed a record of 18 million international visitors in 2019. According to the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), the average spending of foreigners in Vietnam was $1,200 that year, with an average stay of more than nine days per person.

In Thailand, which welcomed 40 million international visitors the same year, foreign tourists' spending doubled that in Vietnam, reaching $2,400-2,500 with the same average length of stay.

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