February 26, 2019 | 08:39 pm PT

Vietnam tourism hopes to make hay while the summit sun shines

Vietnam tourism hopes to make hay while the summit sun shines
A woman welcomes Kim Jong-un's car with flags of North Korea, Vietnam and the U.S. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

Tourism authorities and businesses are capitalizing on the Trump-Kim summit with innovative products and services.

Hoang Nhan Chinh, general secretary of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, said: "Vietnam has spent millions of dollars to promote tourism but this event could create an even bigger impact. The benefit Vietnam will derive from this event is immeasurable."

Quang Binh Province in the central region has offered all journalists covering the event free tourism services.

Quang Binh is one of the most popular travel destinations in Vietnam and home to the world’s largest cave Son Doong and Phong Nha Cave.

Ha Van Sieu, deputy chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said at a press conference Monday that exhibition areas have been set up at the International Media Center to showcase Vietnam’s famous travel destinations to journalists.

Of around 3,000 journalists who will come to Hanoi to cover the summit, "over half are from the U.S., South Korea, Japan, and China, which account for over 50 percent of Vietnam’s foreign tourists," Sieu said.

He added that the VNAT has made plans with North Korea to promote tourism in that country. "Vietnam will likely be a transit point for tourists to travel to North Korea."

The VNAT is also working with U.S. cable TV channel CNN to promote Vietnamese tourism before, during and after the summit.

Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, Vu The Binh, said the best chefs from the Vietnam Chef Association have been chosen to cook traditional foods for journalists at the media center, including 3,000 cups of egg coffee.

Free tours are available at the front desk for journalists who are interested. They could take a coffee tour, a photography tour or a tour to Ha Long and other famous destinations in the north.

Many hotels in the northern Ninh Binh Province and the famous Ha Long Bay are also offering free accommodation to international journalists, Binh said.

The Hanoi Tourism Department offers them a free city tour on the red double-decker buses.

They can hop on a bus every 15 minutes at the media center to travel to the city’s most iconic places such as the St. Joseph Cathedral and the Temple of Literature.

Traditional gifts such as Dong Ho paintings and conical hats have been readied for the journalists.

Hanoi businesses are also taking the opportunity to promote their brands. A bar on Tran Vu Street has already gained a lot of attention with a kimchi-flavored craft beer named Kim Jong Ale.

A pizzeria has been offering free pizzas to people with names similar to that of Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, and a restaurant in the old quarter has hogged some attention with hamburgers named after the two leaders: "Durty Donald" and "Kim Jong Yum."

Durty Donald and Kim Jong Yum burgers served at a restaurant in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Tu

Durty Donald and Kim Jong Yum burgers served at a restaurant in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Tu

A salon on De La Thanh street is offering free Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump haircuts, while a small shop on Hang Bong street has been operating at full capacity selling T-shirts with a design that says peace and carries pictures of both leaders.

Sieu added that the tourism promotion would not stop here. His organization has plans for long-term promotion after the summit, starting with a series of events in the U.S., Russia, South Korea, and Japan.

The main message of those events would be "Vietnam has successfully hosted the second Trump-Kim summit," he said.

"The Trump-Kim summit is a historic opportunity for Vietnam because it is now the focus of international media. Vietnam needs to promote its image as a beautiful, peaceful, safe, and friendly country."

Vietnamese tourism has seen robust growth in recent years. In 2015-18 alone twice the number of international tourists came to Vietnam as in the previous 55 years, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

In 2018 there were 15.5 million international and 80 million domestic visitors, up 19.9 percent and 9.3 percent from 2017 respectively.

Vietnam hopes the numbers will rise to 18 million and 85 million this year.