|Workers tidy up water hyacinths on the Nhiêu Lộc-Thị Nghè Canal. Boat tours along the canal failed to attract tourists because of the water pollution. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Hải|
HCM CITY — Boat tours along HCM City’s Nhiêu Lộc-Thị Nghè Canal, which were expected to make use of the urban waterway to boost water tourism in the city, have failed to attract tourists after two years of operation.
In 2015, the first boat tour service was launched on the Nhiêu Lộc-Thị Nghè Canal by the city’s Department of Tourism and Sài Gòn Boat Co Ltd. The tour offered two options for tourists: a Gondola boat, which was able to carry 1-6 passengers or a conventional boat, which carries 10-20 passengers.
The 4.5km-tour departed from Thị Nghè Bridge in District 1 and stopped at Chantaransay Pagoda in District 3. Folk art performances were provided during the tour.
Đỗ Duy Văn, representative of the city’s Department of Tourism’s Planning and Development Research Office said that the company had invested tens of billions of đồng in building wharfs, boats, and training staff for this service. However, tourists have showed little interest in it.
There were 22 available boats anchored along the wharf, but only a few were in regular use due to the limited number of visitors. The company has not managed to sign contracts with travel companies to get more guests.
Nguyễn Hồng Thu, a tourist from Hà Nội, said that for those who experienced the floating markets on the rivers of the Mekong Delta region, the boat tour was quite boring in comparison.
“There are no typical leisure activities on the canal, and no special views along the route,” she said.
Trần Anh Thy, director of Sài Gòn Boat Co Ltd, spoke to Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper that the company has faced many difficulties in increasing the number of visitors that make use of the service.
The water in the canal has become polluted as local residents living along its banks were discharging waste water. Moreover, illegal fishing along the canal has affected the operation of boats.
Earlier this year, a boat carrying tourists broke a fishing line belonging to a group of people fishing illegally. The fishermen chased the vessel and threw stones at the passengers. Luckily, nobody was injured, however the boat sustained light damage.
A shortage of lighting was another problem, forcing the boats to stop running at night, she added.
Phan Đình Huê, director of Viet Circle Tourism Company, said that the lack of interest in the service was predictable.
According to Huê, the cleanliness of the canal is the key element in developing waterway tourism. The canal was clean for only two months, and quickly became polluted with a horrible odour and waste drifting on the surface.
Such a dirty environment provides little attraction for tourists.
Commenting on the views along the canal, Huê said visitors were given nothing to see or do when taking the tour. This was different from many other countries, where the architecture along the banks of the river provided beautiful views and chances to take photos.
Huê said this was a lesson for both enterprises and city authorities. The authorities should provide proper support to help enterprises boost their tourism products. He said that issues such as environment management and social security should be under strict control, so that enterprises could promote their products.
Từ Quý Thành, director of Liên Bang Travelink, said that the city should do something to improve the situation.
He said that each tour lasts for two hours. Thus, it was necessary to build between five and seven rest areas where tourists can disembark and buy souvenirs or refreshments.
Thành suggested that the work should be done by the city’s Department of Tourism and the local authority, with consultancy and design provided by foreign experts. This would help improve the quality of the service and reinforce the confidence of enterprises so that they would keep investing in the city’s tourism sector. — VNS