Vietnamese youth fall for music tourism

By Quynh Nguyen   July 13, 2023 | 08:08 pm PT
Young Vietnamese traveling abroad to attend concerts say discovering the destinations and making new friends add to the experience of the music.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhat Truong, 21, of the coastal city of Da Nang, applied for a four-day leave from work at the end of this month to travel to Hanoi after the K-pop girl group Blackpink announced their two-night performances in the capital city.

This won’t be Truong’s only long-distance trip to watch his favorite singers’ performances. He has been to Thailand twice to attend two other Blackpink shows, and will go to Singapore next March to watch the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift perform.

He says he feels happy spending time and money on these trips, as he is able to see his favorite singers performing live in front of his own eyes.

"I followed them on social media when I was in school and had no financial resources," he says. "But I’m working and financially independent now, so as long as I can arrange my work schedule, I will go."

Truong attending a Blackpink show in Thailand in May, 2023. Photo courtesy of Truong

Truong attending a Blackpink show in Thailand in May, 2023. Photo courtesy of Truong

Huong Chi, 29, of Hanoi, immediately applied for a one-week leave from work after she succeeded in buying her ticket to a music show in Japan last May.

Chi initially planned to visit Japan last year. But after knowing that her favorite boy group was going to perform in the country, she decided to postpone her trip, as she believed the trip would be more complete if she managed to both see her idols and explore the country.

"Nobody spends millions of dongs (1 million dong equals around $42) and hours sitting on the airplane just to listen to a few songs [instead of additionally exploring the destination]," Chi says.

The 32-year-old Thien Nhi of Ho Chi Minh City has attended local Vietnamese singers’ live performances several times. The criteria she uses to consider which shows to go include their locations: preferably somewhere she has never been to, so that she can explore the places in addition to watching the shows.

Nhi spends between hundreds of thousands and millions of dongs every month on concert tickets, in addition to traveling and accommodation expenses.

Truong, Chi, and Nhi are among those who have taken up a new form of traveling called "music tourism." This trend has been popular elsewhere for years but is only just now gaining traction in Vietnam.

Authorities estimate that the number of visitors to the central highland city of Da Lat is much higher whenever a popular singer holds a show there. As many as 10,000 people traveled to Da Lat when pop singer Ha Anh Tuan held a concert in the city in 2021, many times higher than the usual average figure. Concerts held by pop singers My Tam and Le Quyen brought about the same effect.

Psychologist Nguyen Thi Minh, professor at the National Academy of Public Administration, says music tourism is an explainable phenomenon.

"Older generations collect books or quotes by their favorite authors," she says. "Similarly, the current generation expresses appreciation towards their favorite singers by traveling to other places to attend their concerts."

She adds that this is a positive trend, as there have been studies showing that attending music shows leaves positive effects on moods and mental health. Young adults may also learn how to communicate, how to calculate their spendings, and how to survive in an unfamiliar place through attending concerts in locations other than where they live.

Truong bought his flight ticket to Thailand, booked his accommodation, and researched eating spots on his own when he traveled to the country to attend Blackpink’s show there.

"Now I can arrange any trips abroad myself without having to rely on anyone else," he says.

Le Cong Nang, founder and CEO of the travel agency Wondertour, says Vietnam can benefit from this music tourism phenomenon.

"It has been proved that people are willing to travel long distances and spend their money on products and services provided at the locations of the events," he says.

Various statistics seem to confirm this claim. Tourism in Thailand earned more than $20-30 million from a Blackpink concert held in January this year. The Tourism Authority of Thailand reported that the Born Pink concert helped attract a large number of high-spending tourists.

Blackpink during their concert at Bangkoks Rajamangala National Stadium on May 27-28, 2023. Photo from Blackpinks Twitter

Blackpink during their concert at Bangkok's Rajamangala National Stadium on May 27-28, 2023. Photo from Blackpink's Twitter

According to The Straits Times, Singapore collected more than $35 million from the Blackpink performance in May.

Meanwhile, online travel booking platform Agoda reported searches for hotel rooms in Hanoi during the week following the Blackpink concert announcement grew by 10 times compared to the previous week. Searches from abroad also increased by 2.5 times, especially from markets such as mainland China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

Enric Casals, Agoda’s Regional Vice President Southeast Asia and Oceania, attributes these surges to the "undeniable lure of live musical experiences," of which the impact on people’s travel decisions are profound.

Despite the positive effects music tourism has on individuals and societies, Dr. Tran Thanh Nam, professor at Vietnam National University, still warns about prominent financial risks posed by the phenomenon.

"Spending a hefty amount of money on attending concerts may put many young people, especially those that have not achieved financial independence, under financial burdens," he says.

"Not to mention the risk of scams. Because of that, use your money cleverly and set your own spending limits."

Nhi of HCMC said: "I want to spend my money on my hobby instead of saving."

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