A restaurant on Tạ Hiện Street in Hà Nội's Hoàn Kiếm District is full of customers at night. — VNA/VNS Photo
HÀ NỘI — The itinerary for a tourist visiting Hà Nội typically includes some sightseeing for Instagram photos and trying out a bowl of phở or a bánh mì, possibly with a cup of egg coffee.
Then they could relax after a full day of walking with a beer, or a lot more, in the evening on the party street of Tạ Hiện.
And that’s it. A day’s holiday in Hà Nội could be wrapped up just before midnight.
Tourists flying from afar to Việt Nam often want more than a full eight hours sleep, but nightlife in the country, not only in Hà Nội but other popular tourist attractions like HCM City, Đà Nẵng, Nha Trang and Phú Quốc, is yet to catch up to demand despite rapid development over the years.
The Government has been hesitant to encourage nightlife for years, mostly due to security concerns. That might change soon, thanks to Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc.
This week, the PM asked ministries and localities to look into a new economic policy of China, which aims to promote the nightlife economy to help balance the losses the country has suffered from the ongoing trade war with the US.
The capital Beijing encouraged services and businesses operating between 8pm to 6am by granting money to support their operations. Areas, for example, would receive about US$700,000 to run through the night, while businesses could have up to $70,000 for expansion.
Other mega cities like Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing are also paying more attention to their nightlife economy.
The PM’s order on Vietnamese nightlife caught the attention of economists, who have long argued that a boring nightlife was a key reason for slow growth of tourism compared with the number of tourists.
According to statistics of the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism, 2018 witnessed a record high in the number of inbound and domestic tourists to the country, with a year-on-year increase of 29.2 per cent to nearly 15.6 million visitors. Revenue growth, however, increased only 21.4 per cent.
Vietravel General Director Nguyễn Quốc Kỳ said Việt Nam’s tourism industry had a big blank space for nightlife services and activities.
“Most tourism services now focus on the period of time between 7am and 5pm. They create the so-called ‘hard revenue’ while the services that earn the most are from 6pm to 2am,” Kỳ told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
“They (nightlife services) are not developed properly and tourists have nowhere to go and spend their money. It is such a waste.”
Surveys by Vietravel show the “hard revenue” – or income from daytime activities – accounts for only 30 per cent of total tourism revenue while 70 per cent comes from nightlife.
According to Kỳ, the absence of quality nightlife was critical to the tourism industry as tourists were not interested in returning to Việt Nam while locals earned less than they could.
Việt Nam’s return rate is dramatically low, at merely 6 per cent, compared to the rate of neighbouring countries Thailand and Singapore. As many as 82 per cent of travellers visited Thailand more than twice and 89 per cent came back to Singapore.
The Institute for Tourism Development Research former deputy chairman Phạm Trung Lương told Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper that travellers normally spend their daytime sightseeing and it was nighttime when they went shopping and spent money.
“Nightlife entertainment and services are the biggest source of income of the tourism industry but Việt Nam completely neglected them,” Lương said.
“Not to mention the taxes the Government could have collected from nightlife businesses,” he added. — VNS