While international and domestic tourists have flocked to Ha Long Bay to admire the karst topography for many years, Ha Long City has lacked cultural events, modern entertainment and attractive beaches to prolong the duration of their visits. But that’s finally changing thanks to a major makeover that’s transformed the city’s image.
A natural wonder of the world
When Ha Long Bay was recognised as world nature heritage by UNESCO in 1994, people in Ha Long city and Quang Ninh Province imagined a bright future for their homeland’s tourism industry. Each year, the city started to see millions of tourists from all over the world, but very few actually stayed in Ha Long City. Both domestic and international tourists were coming to see Ha Long Bay, considered to be a ‘natural wonder of the world’, a place you ‘must see in your lifetime’.
The city of Ha Long was regarded as a pit-stop. Most tourists simply clambered off a bus before boarding a traditional junk and setting off across the bay for a sightseeing tour. When they returned to shore, there were not enough activities or attractions in Ha Long to keep people entertained for a few days. Besides enjoying dinner at a seafood restaurant, for more than two decades, most travellers rarely explored Ha Long city.
A new dawn
But now, several renovation projects - developed under the investment of Sun Group - have given Ha Long a facelift that’s transforming its image and encouraging visitors to stick around. When they first outlined their strategic vision for Ha Long City, one of the primary goals for Sun Group, working in collaboration with Quang Ninh authorities, was the clean-up and renewal of Bai Chay beach. For years, the beach had been suffering from pollution caused by industrial mining and urban expansion. Tourists had little interest in spending time there. But by treating domestic wastewater, replacing the sand and developing the gorgeous Bai Chay Bridge, which features colourful LED lights every night, a transformed Bai Chay beach with white sands and clear waters now attracts scores of visitors through the year, and many more during public holidays.
That was just the beginning of Sun Group’s plan to make Ha Long city a more attractive tourist destination. In June 2016, Sun World Halong Complex, a world-class entertainment complex, opened. Industry observers said that this was a huge moment for Ha Long, which means ‘Descending Dragon’ in Vietnamese.
You could say that Sun World Halong Complex reawakened this dragon land after a long slumber. Now families and groups of friends visiting Ha Long can enjoy wonderful panoramic views of Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City from on high, with the Queen Cable Car and Sun Wheel on Ba Deo Hill. Furthermore, Dragon Theme Park and Typhoon Water Park also have a lot to offer guests, like Asia’s longest and most fascinating rollercoaster and many more exciting games and rides.
Since the opening of Sun World Halong Complex, it’s no coincidence that hotels and resorts in the city centre are usually fully booked on holidays. If you want to stay near Bai Chay area, you need to book your hotel at least a week in advance. Even good restaurants in the city’s centre are often filled to capacity at during peak seasons.
A surge in tourism
A representative of Vietrantour Travel Company said: “The appearance of Sun World Halong Complex has contributed greatly to the attractiveness of Ha Long Bay. When Sun Group launched Sun World Halong Complex, Quang Ninh province and Ha Long City witnessed a major surge in tourism”.
In 2018, Quang Ninh welcomed 12.2 million visitors, an increase of 24 per cent compared to the same period in 2017, including 5.2 million international visitors, up 22 per cent compared to 2017, with a large number of tourists coming to Ha Long. Tourism revenue reached VND 24,000 billion, up 28.1 per cent over the same period last year. Meanwhile, Quang Ninh received about 7 million tourists in 2017. It’s expected that 2019 will see even stronger figures than 2018 as Ha Long City and Quang Ninh look to grow from strength to strength.
All boats rise with the tide
There’s no doubt that the development of Bai Chay Bridge, the clean-up of Bai Chay beach, and Sun World Halong Complex have energised the city centre of Ha Long, and there are more plans in the pipeline from Sun Group, which has set out to develop a whole tourism ecosystem around the Bai Chay area. As the old saying goes, all boats rise with the tide.
Located right next to the Sun World Halong Complex, Sun Premier Village Resort Ha Long Bay offers resort villas and shophouses for visitors. At Sun Plaza Grand World – Shophouse Europe, Sun Group recreates the architectural splendour of Vienna while also serving as a centre for entertainment, culture and art. The square was put into operation on the occasion of 2018 Ha Long Carnival festival, a new cultural attraction that will be held on an annual basis, attracting visitors and entertaining residents with a special festive atmosphere with light shows, musical performances, dances and much more at the Sun Carnival Ha Long Square.
A hotspot for festivals
Sun Group has been working closely with local authorities with the aim of making Ha Long a "hotspot of festival tourism”. A wide range of cultural events and festivals have already been held since the beginning of 2017, including a Flower Festival, Carnaval Halong 2018, Four Seasons Festival and Sunrise Festival 2018. Many more cultural and artistic activities will take place in Sun World Halong Complex through 2019 as the aim is to make Ha Long an even more exciting destination all year-round.
Nguyen Van Tuan, Former Director General of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said: “The new tourism products of Sun Group have contributed to positively changing Ha Long, especially around the Bai Chay area. We have not only seen an increase in the number of visitors, but also a ripple effect through the city. Hotels are often filled to capacity, and there has been an increase in the production and circulation of goods.”
Looking forward, major projects from investors will continue to help Quang Ninh, in general, and Ha Long City, in particular, achieve fast but sustainable socio-economic development. As Sun Group continues to develop a complete tourism ecosystem, and prepares to open a five-star resort beside Bai Chay, Ha Long is on its way to becoming one of Vietnam’s most popular destinations. Perhaps soon, Ha Long can even ‘lift the crown’ and be declared as the country’s leading destination.