by Thu Hằng
A series of cultural, sports, tourism, and cuisine events have been organised in HCM City throughout this month, enchanting tourists with New Year celebrations and the festive spirit all around town.
The HCM City Tourism Week 2022 themed “Vibrant Festival, Vibrant Journey” featured many activities at city tourist attractions such as the ASEAN Flagpole at Bạch Đằng Wharf Park, the Thủ Ngữ Flagpole Monument, the Central Post Office, and the City Theatre from December 5-11.
A new cultural and creative space at the Thủ Ngữ Flagpole Monument, one of the highlights of this year’s Tourism Week, forms a unique cultural and tourism playground for locals and visitors with street art shows from December 5-26.
This is the first time the Urban Sketcher, a group of professional architects, exhibited paintings and urban sketches of the city’s symbols and tourist attractions during the Tourism Week.
The 2nd Hot Air Balloon Festival, the 2nd International Music Festival 8 – 11 December at Thủ Thiêm 2 Bridge Park and Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street and the 5th Techcombank HCM City International Marathon from December 11-12 with participation of nearly 14,000 local and foreign marathoners offered exciting experiences for locals and tourists.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of Tourism Week on December 5, Phan Thị Thắng, deputy chairwoman of the municipal People’s Committee, said the city’s tourism industry had seen strong growth after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Domestic and foreign visitors could experience HCM City as a vibrant, dynamic and friendly city with New Year celebrations and an exciting festive spirit, Thắng said.
The city welcomed three million foreign visitors arrivals and nearly 28 million domestic visitor arrivals in the first 11 months of this year.
Tourism revenue totalled more than VNĐ117 trillion (US$4.88 billion).
The HCM City Department of Tourism, the organiser of Tourism Week, in coordination with travel agents, has launched several new tours as part of its efforts to diversify tourist offerings to attract domestic and foreign tourists during the busy year-end travel season.
Lê Trương Hiền Hòa, deputy director of the department, said a wide range of new tourism products had been launched in the city under its tourism campaign "One district - One unique tourism product".
The city was also focusing on efforts to promote linkages with neighbouring provinces and regions across the country in an attempt to fulfil the tourism potential of localities and develop more inter-regional travel products, Hòa said.
Saigontourist Group has offered three new tours to explore the city with tour prices at VNĐ469,000 ($19) each.
Nguyễn Minh Mẫn, marketing and communication director of TST tourist, said the company launched six new tours, including three tours to explore the city and three inter-regional tours from HCM City to Vũng Tàu and Long An.
|Tourists join in entertainment activities held at the Lai Châu Province Cultural and Tourism Week in HCM City on December 2. VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Giang|
More than 100 artists showcased the traditional costumes of the Thái, Mông, Hà Nhì, Lào, and Lự ethnic minorities as part of Lai Châu Province Cultural and Tourism Week held in HCM City from December 2-4.
The three-day event also featured traditional art performances, tourism promotion programmes, displays of local specialties, and a photo exhibition on the culture and tourism of the northern mountainous province of Lai Châu.
Nguyễn Đức Hoàng, deputy director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said travel businesses in HCM City and Lai Châu had a chance to strengthen travel linkages.
“Tourism products that combine multiple regions or provinces are very attractive to international visitors, especially for those who have a limited time at their disposal to visit Việt Nam,” Dr Nuno F. Ribeiro, RMIT Senior Lecturer and Research Cluster Lead in Tourism and Hospitality Management, said.
“These inter-regional travel products also contribute to the sustainable development of tourism as they alleviate the pressure on over-visited tourism destinations and contribute economic benefits to regions hitherto undiscovered or unknown by international tourists. Of course, these measures must be duly promoted and presented to potential tourists, both international and domestic. There must also be an attraction or discounts to entice tourists to avail themselves of these opportunities,” he said.
“Việt Nam is a beautiful country, with lots to discover and a lot of hidden gems. It is time we remind tourists both international and domestic as well as ourselves, of that fact.”
|Visitors on a hop-on, hop-off city tour in HCM City. VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Tuyết|
HCM City is primed to deliver authentic experiences, given its history, vibrancy, and unique cultural and culinary offerings, said Uyên Nguyễn, head of consultancy at Savills Hotels Asia Pacific.
To compete and affirm its position on the international tourism map with neighbouring cities, HCM City’s tourism industry must promote itself by utilising communication and marketing activities, Uyên said.
It should demonstrate its appeal as a holiday destination in addition to an experiential city. State agencies, local authorities, industry-related organisations, and enterprises should coordinate to ensure this happens effectively, she said.
Mauro Gasparotti, director of Savills Hotels Asia Pacific, said HCM City needed more diverse nightlife entertainment and dining options.
"The city needs more specialty restaurants or food courts that cater to local and international tastes. In Bangkok and Singapore, this model can be found anywhere offering a selection of local dishes and flavours from across the world," Gasparotti said.
"Rooftop bars need better attention. HCM City has only a handful of quality rooftop bars that cater to leisure and business travellers.
"It is a good strategy to also appeal to business travellers because if they like the destination, they may come back with their family and friends."
"Another element that we need to focus on" Gasparotti said "is creating busy pedestrian streets with diverse shopping and dining activities such as Clark Quay in Singapore or Asiatique in Thailand.
"Nguyễn Huệ Pedestrian Street is already popular with local and international travellers, however, there is room to improve it by connecting it with Bạch Đằng Wharf."
"Small changes can make it a must-go spot on the tourism map where travellers can enjoy the city vibe with cuisine and shopping experiences," he added.
Relaxation of visa procedures
"One of the greatest impediments to increase international travel to Việt Nam is the difficulty in securing a visa in a timely fashion, the restricted number of countries that are visa-exempt, and the inconsistency in administrative procedures," said Ribeiro.
"Any relaxation and streamlining of visa procedures will lead to an increase in international visitors, especially from neighbouring markets such as Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and India."
Measures such as increasing the number of countries that are visa exempt, increasing the visa exemption period from 15 to 30 or even 60 days, allowing multiple-entry visas for previous visitors, and securing visas on arrival for select countries would lead to an increase in international tourism and consequently a rise in tourism receipts, according to Ribeiro.
"Increasing the sustainable quality of the tourist product by forming public-private partnerships would also help. Public-private partnerships will increase the quality of tourism services offered in Việt Nam and will thus increase international tourism return rates," Ribeiro said.
"These needs are consistent quality tourism service delivery by duly qualified and trained human resources, concern with ecologically sustainable products and services, and presentation of tourism products that combine multiple attractions such as beach destinations, cultural sites, and city centres."
|Foreign visitors shop at a shopping centre in downtown HCM City on December 4 . VNS Photo Thu Hằng|
“Ultimately the goal is not only to increase the number of international visitors to Việt Nam, but to make sure they have unforgettable experiences that will make them return again and again,” he added.
Last year, Việt Nam placed 52nd in the Travel&Tourism Development Index, an increase of eight places from 2019. This year, Việt Nam also placed 23rd in the Asia Pacific Risk Reward Index, according to Fitch Solutions. — VNS