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Vietnam’s tourism industry surges as economy booms

International tourists flock to Da Nang as business travellers and MICE groups meet in Hanoi, Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh City

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 9:19am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 9:19am

With economic growth topping 6 per cent annually for more than 15 years, it’s no surprise that Vietnam’s cities are flourishing as never before. From Da Nang to Hai Phong, and from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, tourism is booming along with the country’s economic fortunes.

In Da Nang, local tourism officials estimate that over five million people visited in the first nine months of this year, one-third of which were international guests. Growth in Hai Phong is up a stunning 40 per cent, while Hanoi grew by double digits in 2016 from a much larger base. Ho Chi Minh City is experiencing similar growth.

Da Nang tends to be popular with leisure guests such as couples, families and tour groups, followed by the meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions (Mice) groups and business guests, says Ima Sheeren, director of sales and marketing at Hyatt Regency Da Nang Resort and Spa. She notes that the city’s new convention centre and its recent hosting of the annual Apec Summit would boost its international profile.

At the Hyatt Regency Da Nang Resort and Spa, which offers a mix of guestrooms, suites and beachfront villas, “around 80 per cent of our rooms have stunning views of the sea”, says Sheeren. The property also has five outdoor swimming pools, including a children’s wading pool.

Meanwhile, Hai Phong’s popularity is rooted in commerce, says Matthew Fryar, general manager of Avani Hai Phong Harbour View Hotel. “In the last five years, the city has started to attract more tourists due to its proximity to Halong Bay [a World Heritage Site] and Cat Ba Island, which is the largest island in Halong Bay.”

The hotel features a French colonial style that complements its neighbourhood and exudes “the natural warmth of its tropical surroundings”, Fryar says. It uses touches such as a scented face towel and refreshing tea upon arrival and a wide range of Vietnamese dishes at the Nam Phuong restaurant to show the charm of Vietnam.

While Hanoi’s reputation has been known as a destination for well-heeled travellers or backpackers, today there is a much more diverse mix of clientele, notes Anthony Slewka-Armfelt, director of sales and marketing Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi and regional director of sales for Accorhotels Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He sees a growing number of arrivals from Asian markets such as mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore, while visitors from Hong Kong are increasing but from a relatively small base. Explaining the strengths of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Slewka-Armfelt says: “We are the only hotel in Hanoi that is a member of the main luxury consortia American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts and Virtuoso as well as the newer European network called Traveller Made.”

In Ho Chi Minh City, Sedona Suites Ho Chi Minh City will open the 195-unit Grand Tower soon. It also features floor-to-ceiling windows with unrivalled panoramic views of Ho Chi Minh City and the Saigon River, says Chee Seng Chu, manager of Keppel Land Hospitality Management, which operates and manages the property with an existing Orchid Tower. The amenities and services in the Grand Tower will include a swimming pool, a restaurant and the resident’s lounge and airport transfers, Chu adds.

As the economy of Vietnam is fast developing and times are changing quickly, none of the cities are resting on their laurels.

In Da Nang, “the expansion of Da Nang International Airport, the building of multiple bridges and the widening and cleaning of area roads” are helping boost all kinds of growth, Sheeren says.

“There is also a mushrooming of local establishments such as cafes and restaurants, while the presence of international hotel chains continues to drive awareness of the destination,” she adds.

Hai Phong has also enjoyed “improved connectivity, which has led to new initiatives”, says Fryar. He lists a wide range of new and upcoming amenities: two new shopping centres, large scale housing projects along the riverfront and two further golf courses.

“Hanoi is serious about growing and developing tourism”, says Slewka-Armfelt. “Better access to tourist attractions such as Sapa [via a new highway] and Yen Tu Mountain [via new facilities] as well as working on prioritising more green space in the city are examples,” Slewka-Armfelt adds.

Perhaps the most significant change coming to Ho Chi Minh is the metro rapid transit network, which is expected to greatly transform the way people in Ho Chi Minh commute and give added convenience for tourists, Chu adds.

He says that the system could provide excellent connectivity across the city when it opens in 2020.

Regardless of the destination or combination of cities to visit in Vietnam, Chu notes that a positive economic outlook and a relaxation of visa rules will increase both business travel and tourism arrivals.