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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cruise tourism ‘needs strategic plan’ in Vietnam

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Poor port facilities have contributed to an alarming drop in cruise tourism to Viet Nam, according to Vu The Binh, a senior official of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism.

A Viet Nam Shipbuilding Industry Group cruise ship with foreign visitors on board, docks at Hon Gai Port, Ha Long City, in the northern province of Quang Ninh.

Since the beginning of this year, only 52,300 visitors came to Viet Nam by sea, Binh said, a fall of 54 per cent from the same period last year.

This number was equivalent to 2.11 per cent of the total foreign visitors to the country, against a peak of 12 per cent.

"The number of cruise tourists coming to Viet Nam has still been low despite the fact that the country has great potential to develop cruise tourism with its 3,260km of beaches," Binh said.

Other than the economic crisis, poor infrastructure was a key reason for the downturn, he said.

While other regional countries such as Singapore have built modern ports for cruise tourists, Viet Nam only had industrial ports.

Nguyen Anh Tuan, a senior official of the administration, agreed. He said cruise tourists were well-heeled so their demand for service was high.

Nguyen Thanh Binh, director of Tan Hong Tourist and Trade Company Ltd’s Ha Noi branch, said the fact that ports and their service roads were clogged with street vendors didn’t help – they made cruise tourists feel uncomfortable.

Also, cruise tourists liked shopping and cuisine, which was not up to the standard in many parts of Viet Nam. Added to that was the poor condition of roads from the ports to the main attractions.

The experts agreed that upgrading infrastructure was necessary. Specialised ports must be constructed with high services in some or all of the most attractive places, such as Hue, Da Nang, Sai Gon, Phu Quoc, Ha Long, Con Dao and Nha Trang.

Provinces needed to re-organise their services by developing craft villages and entertainment around the tourist centres.

Promotion also was important, such as boosting co-operation with other countries in the region where cruise ships stop, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Viet Nam is a transit place for cruise ships. The ships stop for a short time, only two or three days, which makes the exploitation of this type of tourism difficult.

Travel companies should forge relationship with foreign tourism companies so that they could visit Viet Nam to study its cruise destination potential, they said.

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