JOURNALIST: - Ho Chi Minh City now has many new tourism products, but they have not made an impression on the City’s tourism as yet. In your opinion, what products should the City offer to attract more tourists?
Mr. TRAN HUNG VIET: - Tourists coming to a country want to go to the capital and to the most modern and developed cities. Ho Chi Minh City has the advantage of modern facilities and therefore each year it attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world. The City also offers many advantages to develop tourism even further such as a rich cuisine with specialties of other national regions as well as an international cuisine. Historical destinations, diverse museums and architectural structures such as Cu Chi Tunnels, Central Post Office and ancient temples and pagodas; elegant hotels and restaurants; shopping places from the traditional such as Ben Thanh market and Binh Tay market to high-end commercial centers are places that lure vast numbers of tourists every year. The City also organizes many traditional festivals such as food festivals, Ao Dai (Vietnamese traditional dress) festival to attract tourists.
There are some programs that are quintessentially only for Ho Chi Minh City such as the Nguyen Hue Flower Street on every Tet or Lunar New Year holidays. In addition, the City has also developed many new areas to bring in tourists such as specialized towns, but these have not left a strong impression on visiting tourists.
For example, Ho Chi Minh City has a very beautiful river system but it has not been exploited fully. We need to plan both sides of the Saigon river, develop more sightseeing stops, invest in more comfortable boats and small cruise vessels to offer unique river experience. In many countries, river tourism has been developed very well and tourists seem to love that experience. From here we can develop a chain of restaurants along the river like the Chao Phraya waterfront area in Thailand. One product that can be very popular in a tourist city is Hop on-Hop off cars (pick up and drop off passengers along tourist destinations routes in the city). Hop on-Hop off bus services are available in many major cities around the world, but Ho Chi Minh City has not developed this attraction as yet.
The City also has potential to develop along the Long Phuoc Ward (formerly known as Long Phuoc Isle) in District 9. If the plan is good, the City can offer water tours as good as the ones in the western parts of Vietnam. Here you can offer homestays or build floating restaurants that foreign tourists will enjoy. In addition, Ho Chi Minh City also owns the Can Gio biosphere which has beautiful canals and natural monkey islands which can become attractive tourist areas with proper investment.
Besides these areas, the City also needs to replan the existing tourist spots such as the Ben Thanh market, a highly popular traditional market that foreign tourists visit by the droves. But Ben Thanh market is still not well organized with small businesses selling any product they have, therefore the tourism management board needs to build a more professional and sanitized tourist market. Take for instance, the current development of night economy that is drawing much criticism. While tourists welcome the existence of a night market, managers remain worried. Night economy is very important for tourism but we must research and develop it effectively.
- Sir, what do we do to send back visitors with good and happy memories of the City?
- As a person working in the tourism industry for many years, I have been to many cities in many countries around the world. When I return from any city, I save a special product of that city and when anyone looks at it, they can identify it with the city that I have been to. The City of Berlin in Germany leaves a very strong impression on visitors when each item carries a brand image of the City; or in Paris you can immediately see the brand image of the City on its many products.
- Regional links in development of tourism are being talked about recently. In your opinion, what does this mean for tourism in Ho Chi Minh City?
- Regional links are a very important factor to develop a smooth travel industry. Regional connectivity in tourism for Ho Chi Minh City is even more important, as it will help to connect various destinations and tourist facilities and make tourists stay for longer durations. Regional connectivity also will contribute to an increase in the number of visitors to Ho Chi Minh City, because not only will we take visitors to other provinces from here but visitors from other provinces will also visit Ho Chi Minh City.
More recently, Ho Chi Minh City held a forum to connect tourism with 13 provinces in the Mekong Delta so that all departments and businesses sat down to find most effective ways to link, in order to jointly develop tourism in these regions. In my opinion, many provinces in the Mekong Delta regions are developing very open tourism which will be a good opportunity for tourism to grow and create specific products to attract both domestic and foreign tourists.
- Thank you very much.