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|Tourists in downtown HCM City.-Photo Thu Hang|
Though the city is a major tourism hub in the country, it trails other localities in developing a master plan for tourism development, Pham Trung Luong, former deputy head of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, said.
The sector has not been proactive in advising the city administration to develop the metro into a “destination that never sleeps” or unique tourism products, he told at a roundtable on August 16.
The city has also been slow in adopting policies to improve the competitiveness of its destinations amid the ongoing global integration, he said.
Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, deputy director of the city Department of Tourism, said a master plan for tourism development is being drafted.
Tourism marketing and promotion are not done in a professional manner, she admitted.
But she said the city has launched a number of festivals and cultural, sports and art events to attract tourists throughout the year: like the Ao Dai Festival, Fashionology Festival, the Southern Land Cuisine Festival, the Southern Fruit Festival, Unicorn-Lion-Dragon Dance Festival, the HCM City International Marathon, and International Travel Expo HCM City.
The city ranks third in the list of 10 best destinations in Asia this year put out by Lonely Planet.
But its tourism products are not attractive enough to make tourists stay longer or spend more, she said.
It has more than 1,800 one- to five-star hotels, accounting for 30.9 per cent of such facilities in the country.
It has more than 650 travel firms.
In the first seven months of the year, the city received 4.3 million foreign tourists, a year-on-year increase of 26 per cent.
Tourism revenues were estimated at VND75.5 trillion (US$3.28 billion), up 17.7 per cent.
Ha Bich Lien, advisor at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, said the lack of ports for large ships to dock prevents more cruise passengers from coming to the city.
Large ships, which carry 3,000-5,000 passengers, have to dock at ports in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, which are always too busy receiving container ships and have no space for cruise ships, she said.
HCM City has thus missed the chance to attract high-spending cruise passengers, most of them from Europe, who spend an average of $100 a day, she said.
City authorities should quickly resolve this problem since large cruise ships would hugely benefit the city’s tourism industry, she added.
Bui Ta Hoang Vu, director of the city Department of Tourism, said ports in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province prefer container ships purely for economic reasons. A container ship has to pay $230,000 for berthing at the port while a cruise ship only pays $30,000.
The department has worked with Ba Ria-Vung Tau authorities to resolve this problem even as HCM City waits for new ports that will be built in Can Gio District, he said.