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|Vietnam’s plans for unforgettable nights out|
Prowling the Old Quarter at the weekend, Hanoi’s most popular area for bars, restaurants, and night-time entertainment for locals and foreigners alike, Daniel Rossi, a Frenchman working for a European organisation in Vietnam, feels that the scene is more a lot more boring than before the pandemic. Although most venues have reopened since nationwide social distancing ended, entertainment activities have yet to bounce back into full swing, especially night-time ones which are heavily dependent on foreign tourists. With entry to the country restricted, there are just half as many patrons as before the pandemic.
“Vietnam has halted all international flights to keep people safe, however, this cannot go on forever, people from other countries need to enter Vietnam for work and holidays,” Rossi said. His argument resonates well with the government’s recent policy orientations to boost the tourism industry, and especially the night-time economy, to not only bounce back to full strength after the borders are reopened, but to achieve new heights.
Although no decision has yet been made on when and in what form international flights for tourists into Vietnam will occur, non-nationals from 80 nations will be able to apply for e-visas from July 1, which is expected to eventually lure travellers to Vietnam. The country has already succeeded in fighting against COVID-19, but it is remaining cautious in regards to reopening borders for anything other than essential workers.
Two weeks ago, Vietnam’s government discussed to resume flights to other Asian destinations on strict conditions, including Tokyo, Seoul, Guangzhou, and Laos. Elsewhere, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are also considering the reopening of international flights with Vietnam.
Accordingly, some local airlines like Bamboo Airways and Vietnam Airlines announced to resume flights between big cities of Vietnam and above-mentioned cities, and even Munich, Prague, Brisbane, and Melbourne in July. Numerous tourism agencies are also already promoting international flights this month.
“In the long term, Vietnam will be well-known as a safe and friendly destination, and the number of tourists will increase sharply, possibly much higher than the period before the pandemic,” said Nguyen Tran Nam, chairman of the Vietnam Real Estate Association (VNREA).
By 2025, Vietnam estimates to receive 35 million international arrivals and 120 million domestic tourists at least. Total revenue from tourism is projected to reach $80 billion with a growth rate of 13-14 per cent.
However, to reach these goals, developing a sturdy night-time economy (NTE) is essential. Economist Dinh Trong Thinh said that a focus on this could generate huge benefits for tourism, contribute to socio-economic development, and promote entertainment business activities.
Realising the potential of NTE, numerous countries around the world have already carried out strategies to promote the sector, and gain billions of dollars.
In the United Kingdom, NTE usually contributes around £66 billion ($83.5 billion), equivalent to around 6 per cent to the nation’s GDP, and creating 1.25 million jobs. London alone generates 40 per cent.
But the coronavirus pandemic which has hit Britain badly has put a huge dent in the sector. Last month the UK’s Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) revealed that many illegal dance parties had been taking place across England as people “hit a wall” from being in lockdown for over 10 weeks.
“The youth of today wants to be out and engaged,” NTIA chief executive Mike Kill told The Guardian. “There are a lot of people out there who are socially starved at the moment. And that’s why these illegal raves are starting to pop up because people have been trapped inside four walls for a long time now. I don’t think there is anyone in our industry that couldn’t see this coming.”
Meanwhile in Australia, Sydney is also known as the capital of NTE with an annual value of $27.2 billion. Deloitte Access Economics researched and anticipated that this city could gain additionally $16 billion every year if providing more efficient policies. Last month the New South Wales government announced plans to relax late-night trading and lift the long-standing freeze on new liquor licences across Sydney’s central business district, to give the NTE a much-needed boost.
Meanwhile New York, known as the city that never sleeps, boasted bars, clubs, and spas staying open until 4am before the pandemic. In November it even appointed its own night-time mayor, with the NTE in the city generating $35.1 billion in economic activity, and nearly $700 million local tax revenue. New York has also struggled badly with the pandemic, but last month began to allow restaurants to partly reopen, serving customers outside but six feet apart.
In Asia, Japan has been interested in expanding its NTE for several years, in addition to tourism and general economic development. Creating policies and solutions related to transport infrastructure and business locations, the NTE is considered fourth on the tourism priority list behind nature, food, and history. Last year the Japanese market was estimated to reach $3.7 billion in 2020 if every tourist spent just over $90 additionally per night.
Some economists, including Nguyen Tran Nam from VNREA, foresee that resort property after COVID-19 will concentrate on green and environmentally-friendly products, including more services like in the night-time arena.
“The integration of NTE in resorts would accelerate the growth of both,” said Nam. This is the route that leading developers like Vingroup, Sun Group, and CEO Group have been going down at popular tourism locations in the country.
However, this may not be enough for the country to gain around 6-10 per cent of the nation’s GDP from NTE in the time coming, and 20-30 per cent in the next few years, according to forecasts from the Asian Development Bank.
Besides some NTE activities in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh City’s Bui Vien street, and small night markets in other localities, similar activities should be deployed more widely across the country, and ample services offered.
“Businesses and the state should diversify services, products, and highlight the special characteristics of every province,” economist Vu Dinh Anh recommended. “NTE should be centralised in a place that is not too close to populated areas, and cannot impact the life of local people with lights and noise.”
In addition to standard goods like beer, food, and souvenirs, exploring cultural features is desired most by every international visitor. “They would like to know more about regional specialties and are often willing to pay 10 times the real costs for new experiences like rice cultivation or fishing at night,” added Dinh Anh.
The Ministry of Planning and Investment has been building solutions and general plans for the development of NTE. Accordingly, the ministry is trying to remove negative prejudices associated with bars, pubs, discotheques, karaoke parlours, and other night-time entertainment venues.