February 19, 2019 | 05:25 pm PT

Trump-Kim summit a tourism fillip for Vietnam

Trump-Kim summit a tourism fillip for Vietnam
The second Trump-Kim summit is expected promote Vietnam's tourism to the world. Photo by Shutterstock/Phuong D. Nguyen

The upcoming summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will have tourism spinoffs for Vietnam, travel agencies say.

Addressing a meeting held Tuesday to discuss preparations for the summit, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that the event was a valuable opportunity to show the world that Vietnam was a great tourism destination. 

The summit happens to take place at the same time as the 20th anniversary of Hanoi being recognized by the UNESCO as the City for Peace, he noted, adding: "For this reason, the city needs promote the image of a city with historical traditions and great potential for investment."

Le Nguyen Mai Hoa, deputy general director of Vietnam Tourism Hanoi, said the summit gives Vietnamese travel destinations a "free" opportunity to be featured on international media.

"Marketing on direct channels for foreign customers is always costly, therefore tourism companies will enjoy this event. Hanoi and Vietnam will be advertised globally and they won’t have to pay a dime," she told VnExpress International.

Hoa has some precedent to rely on in the previous summit hosted in Singapore in 2018. The number of visitors to the country last year grew by 6.2 percent to 18.5 million, according to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Coverage of the summit saw an estimated 2.36 billion views with 8,000 pieces of online content that mentioned Singapore in its headlines, while Google registered over two million hits on the phrase "where is Singapore" from the U.S. alone, one day before the summit, according to Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times.

Echoing Hoa, Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy general director of Hanoi Redtours, said that the event would paint a positive image of Vietnam’s tourism to the world.

"If Vietnam organizes the event well, the world will remember it as a safe, friendly place. More international tourists will consider Vietnam their next destination," he said.

Hoan added that the summit would also boost MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) tourism in the country.

"As more international companies could consider Vietnam for their next global conferences after this event, my company will launch a new MICE tourism package soon."

Vietnamese tourism will also enjoy direct benefits during summit days, industry insiders said. With some 3,000 journalists arriving to report on the event, and a large number of entourages on both sides, local hospitality businesses would see an uptick in their revenues, they added.

Data from booking services like Booking and Agoda shows that major hotels in Hanoi like the Sheraton, Hilton Hanoi Opera and Crowne Plaza West Hanoi are already fully booked even though the event only takes place next week.

VnExpress's attempts to book a room in Hanoi’s 15 five-star hotels on Traveloka proved futile. At three other hotels that have hosted U.S. Presidents earlier: the Sofitel Legend Metropole, JW Marriott and Sheraton, there were no rooms available from February 25 to March 2.

Hot iron

Although the summit is a major opportunity for Vietnamese tourism, taking advantage of it is not an easy task, industry insiders said.

Nguyen Quoc Ky, CEO of travel company Vietravel, said that if local travel businesses do not strike while the iron is hot, they will lose the opportunity. They should promote the country using "Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam" as a key phrase, he said.

"Businesses need to provide high quality accommodation and transport services right after the event with attractive discounts to win more customers," he said.

Vietnam’s tourism has been booming in recent years, and the summit will facilitate the country achieving its target of 18 million international visitors this year, several travel experts said.

Last year, the country welcomed 15.5 million foreign visitors, up 19.9 percent from 2017, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

Revenue from both domestic and international tourists grew by 21.4 percent to $26.69 billion last year, it added.

Trump and Kim are due to meet in Hanoi on February 27 and 28.

South Korean television and radio network MBC has reported that Kim plans to visit Vietnam two days before the summit.