According to Nguyen Thanh Binh, representative of the Tan Hong Travel Firm, cruise tourists are mostly rich elderly people who always demand high quality services. However, Vietnamese in-land services are not as good as on-board services, therefore, it is very difficult to attract tourists.
In general, as for within-the-day tours, tourists regularly choose the tours to Hanoi (The Ho Chi Minh Museum, ancient streets) or to Halong Bay (visiting the bay or kayaking). As for the tours to the central region, the most favored tours are the ones to Da Nang, Hue and Hoi An. The travelers who want to visit the south would choose Ba Ria-Vung Tau or Ho Chi Minh City. However, most of travelers want to return to ships to sleep and enjoy the services here, rather than using in-land services.
That explains why the actual spending of the rich tourists in Vietnam is low. Nguyen Anh Tuan, Deputy Director of the Travel Department under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), noted that cruise tourists like shopping and entertainment services. Therefore, Vietnam should have the shopping malls or standardized sale points to be introduced to cruise tourists.
“If you want to persuade cruise tourists to use in-land services, you should have high quality services to satisfy them,” he added.
According to Hoang Long, an experienced tour guide, tourists complain that the souvenirs are profuse, but products are not original. An US couple once asked him to introduce an original Vietnamese souvenir, so that they can purchase it to add to their collection of tourism souvenirs. However, Long said that it is very difficult to find such a product, because products are modern and not original.
Finally, they decided to buy an embroidery picture priced at 3000 dollars. When saying goodbye, the couple said they were satisfied with the picture, but complained that they had to spend a lot of time to find it.
The representative from Du Ngoan Viet Travel Firm also said that cruise tourists are all high income earners, who always want to buy traditional productions. Meanwhile, Vietnam still does not have many things to sell, especially the portable and small-sized products.
“Travel firms should design the tours which allow cruise tourists to drop into traditional craft villages, where they can both relax and do shopping,” he suggested.
Upgrading infrastructure and following long term promotion campaigns
To date, Vietnam remains the transit point for tourists. Vietnam still lacks sea ports which allow foreign cruises to more easily enter Vietnam. It also lacks hotels, restaurants and tourism sites.
Singapore and Hong Kong have built new ports which are capable to receive very big ships, while Vietnam, thanks to its advantageous position, can get benefits from the investment. “Therefore, Vietnam needs to draw up a strategy on attracting tourism cruises to Vietnam,” said Vu Duy Vu, Deputy Director of Saigontourist.
“There are many places along the coastal line which can be placed for tourism ports, such as Halong, Da Nang, Hue, Nha Trang, Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City,” Vu said.
Tuan from VNAT said that if Vietnam is determined to attract tourism cruises, it should build specialized tourism ports soon. Singapore has also sent experts to Vietnam who will cooperate to search for the places suitable for building tourism ports.
“Cruise tourists are mostly high income earners. Therefore, there should be some 10 travel firms specializing in receiving cruise tourists which should advertise their services through big shipping firms,” said the representative from Du Ngoan Viet.