More provinces to offer free wifi for tourists
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan has encouraged the most-visited cities and provinces to launch a free wireless broadband program to attract more tourists, especially those from abroad.
At a nationwide web conference on polishing the nation’s tourism environment last week, Nhan said the tourist attractions of Ha Long and Nha Trang had started offering free wifi after the ancient town of Hoi An and the coast city of Danang.
Other tourism-reliant cities should do the same to enable visitors to stay online while on the go and look for services and tourism information on the web, he told the meeting.
The central province of Quang Nam started free wifi service in Hoi An in March at a cost of some VND25 billion, funded by various sources. After that, Danang did a similar scheme with 150 wifi hotspots set up citywide.
HCM City appoints young volunteers to assist foreign tourists
The Communist Youth Union in Ho Chi Minh City introduced a new plan on June 8 at 23/9 Park in District 1, to train young volunteers who will in future assist foreign tourists with key and relevant information on the City.
The teams will include young people who have good command of foreign language skills and be able to help and guide tourists within the City, especially in District 1 where most of the foreign holidaymakers converge.
The volunteers will be mainly based in three locations such as the T-Junction of Pham Ngu Lao-De Tham Streets, the crossroad of De Tham-Bui Vien Streets, and in front of the Army Command Station in Pham Ngu Lao Ward on De Tham Street in District 1.
The unique Bac Ha plateau horse race
Horsemen from ethnic groups on the Bac Ha plateau in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai gathered at the annual horse race festival on June 8.
The horse race has always existed in the mythology of the Bac Ha people and was designed for “barefoot cavaliers”, who have been friends with horses since they were born. It has now become part of the unique traditional culture of the “white plateau” and a popular attraction for both domestic and international tourists.
According to local resident Vang Van Hoang, in the old days, when the immense forests were adorned with white plum and apricot flowers, local people flocked to the Hoang A Tuong edifice to watch the horse race, which usually took place at the foot of Ba Me Con Mountain.
The horsemen gathered at the starting line and, when a shot signaled the start of the race, they galloped towards a specific point. When they reached their goal, they jumped off their horses, fired five shots, and grabbed a red ball before remounting their horses and returning to the starting line.
The traditional race is run bareback, which makes it even more exciting with spectacular performances.
During wartime, the race was suspended for many years as the horsemen went to the battlefield to fight for national independence.
The race was resumed in the spring of 1980 when the Bac Ha Military Command gathered more than 50 jockeys and horses from villages across the district to join the competition.
Twenty-seven years later, the race was officially restored as part of the annual tourism programme in eight northwestern provinces.
Increasing numbers of visitors have come to Bac Ha to witness this unique festival, with 30,000 watching the race in 2012, double the figure in 2009.
The restoration of the festival aims to help preserve the special cultural and spiritual values of local ethnic minority people, said Nguyen Anh Tuan, Chairman of the Bac Ha People’s Committee.
Vang Van Huynh, who won last year’s race, said only when they are on horseback, can he and his fellow riders show off the courage they inherited from their ancestors.
Visitors at this year’s festival will be able to join the exciting and animated atmosphere and enjoy a number of other activities including traditional dances, a food festival, farmer’s market, and various eco-tourism programmes.
Saigontourist opens office in Nha Trang
Saigontourist Travel Service Company last Saturday opened a branch in Nha Trang in the central province of Khanh Hoa, its sixth transaction office to be put into operation this year.
According to Saigontourist, in addition to introducing domestic and outbound tourism products to local tourists, Saigontourist-Nha Trang provides outbound tours departing from Cam Ranh International Airport and welcome Russian tourists flying directly between Cam Ranh and Russia. With this branch, tourism products concerning sea, islands, leisure, events and golf can be boosted.
On the opening day, the branch granted Saigontourist vouchers worth VND1 million each to the first ten customers buying package services. Besides, Saigontourist-Nha Trang will offer many airfare and domestic and outbound tour discounts from now until June 22.
Saigontourist Travel Service Company had over 450,000 domestic and international tourists last year with total travel revenue amounting to over VND2.085 trillion.
New hotel brand goes up in Hoi An
Thailand’s hotel investment and management firm Minor Hotel Group has introduced Anantara Hoi An Resort in the central province of Quang Nam, its second project in the country after the first in the south-central province of Binh Thuan.
Situated next to the Thu Bon River, Anantara Hoi An is a boutique resort with 93 guest rooms and other services.
This is one of the two resorts Minor Hotel Group has acquired from hotel management firm Life Resorts, including Life Heritage Resort Hoi An and Life Wellness Resort Quy Nhon. Total capital for the two properties and acquisition of the brand is US$16 million.
After turning the Life Heritage Resort Hoi An into Anantara Hoi An Resort, the group plans to re-brand the Life Wellness Resort Quy Nhon as Avani Quy Nhon Resort & Spa.
The Thai firm entered Vietnam in 1998 via a joint venture in Harbour View Hotel in Haiphong City. It launched the first project, Anantara Mui Ne Resort & Spa, in Binh Thuan Province two years ago.
The group now has 85 properties in operation across 12 countries, including Vietnam.
Saigon-Phu Quoc Resort and Spa’s stunning promotions
Phu Quoc Island, a peaceful tropical paradise in the warm turquoise waters, is known for its stunning beaches, untouched natural environment, splendid surroundings, and fantastic scuba diving, snorkeling and squid fishing as well as seafood specialties.
However, visiting this magical place does give you a bit of a dilemma. Where to stay? For accommodation, the Saigon-Phu Quoc Resort and Spa is recommended as an ideal spot. The resort has 98 bungalows and villas overlooking the sea and offers many entertainment services. The resort has two restaurants with a capacity of 300 guests, a conference hall with 200 seats and a spa together with many relaxing and entertainment services.
The resort is offering many attractive promotions. For a twin Panorama room, tourists just pay VND1.66 million per night from Monday to Thursday until July 31 and VND1.5 million for two nights at a twin room of Star Cruise level and up, available until October 31. The program is not applied for package services and other promotions. Guests will be also given a voucher for a sauna and massage.
Travelers can also pay from VND2.67 million for a package price to stay one night at Panorama room for two guests, inclusive of airport transfer, breakfast, 90-minute massage and sauna. Moreover, just pay from around VND2.6 million for a package price for two guests to stay at Panorama room for one night, inclusive of breakfast, airport transfer and main meal.
The resort also offers 36 free services including sauna, massage, airport transfer, wifi, swimming pool, tea, coffee, doctor on call, billiards, gym, kids’ playground, tennis (from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), golf course, bicycle, Chinese chess, table tennis and kayaking. The resort also has other services such as a bistro at President Villa, room service 24/7, an office selling air tickets, tours to travel around the island, scuba diving and squid fishing.
The resort has two new conference rooms with the capacity of 10 to 250 seats. The Saigon-Phu Quoc Resort and Spa is located at 62 Tran Hung Dao Street on Phu Quoc Island off Kien Giang Province, tel: (077) 3846 999, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.vietnamphuquoc.com.
Phu Yen is looking for its place in the sun
Central Phu Yen province is angling to become Vietnam’s another new attractive tourism destination, following Danang, Quang Nam and Nha Trang, as the province’s transport infrastructure is improved.
In September, the province will inaugurate a new terminal at Tuy Hoa airport that has throughput capacity of 550,000 people per year. This new terminal will bring Phu Yen closer to tourists, who used to feel difficult in travelling to the province.
In addition, a tunnel through Cu Mong mountain pass is under the construction, making transportation from Khanh Hoa province, home to Nha Trang Bay, to Phu Yen more convenient.
“The biggest challenge for tourism development in Phu Yen is poor transportation network. But this problem is going to be removed. We are now calling for investors in the tourism sector,” said Tran Quang Nhat, Vice Chairman of Phu Yen Provincial People’s Committee. “We consider tourism a priority for provincial economic growth.”
Bordering with Binh Dinh in the north and Khanh Hoa in the south, Phu Yen owns a wealth of wild, sandy beaches, including Bai Xep, Bai Tram, Bai Mon-Mui Dien, Xuan Dai Bay, Vung Ro Bay and O Loan Lagoon. It could be described as the last long stretch of undeveloped sandy beaches in Vietnam.
The beauty of Phu Yen could explain why Sama Dubai, a member and a subsidiary of the United Arab Emirates’s Dubai Holding, considered investing billions of dollar to build luxury resorts in Xuan Dai Bay and O Loan Lagoon a few years ago. The developer discussed the project with the local authorities for about three years before Sama Dubai withdrew because of the global financial crisis.
“In three years negotiating with Sama Dubai, we could not call for other foreign investors to develop these beautiful sites,” said Nhat.
But now, Nhat revealed, a famous domestic hospitality and property developer is studying the opportunity to invest in O Loan Lagoon, which could be a break-through for the development of Phu Yen.
Brunei-headquartered New City Vietnam Company, in 2008, gained an investment certificate for a $4.3 billion project that would cover 565 hectares of land along a sandy, wild beach in Bai Xep area, comprising of three 4-star hotels with 900 rooms and four 5 star-hotels with 2,250 rooms. In addition to that, the investor will build other facilities like villas, residential areas, a diving zone, a sport centre, a water park, a commercial area, office buildings, a golf course, electronic gaming services and a healthcare centre.
Although the developer has not started the construction yet because of slow pace of site clearance, it is committed to pursuing this project.
In developing its tourism sector, Phu Yen maps out a plan for luring around 900,000 tourists by 2015.
Bright prospects for Lao Cai tourism
Typical tourism products of the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai have drawn increasing attention from foreign travel publications, a senior official of the provincial tourism sector has said.
Tran Huu Son, head of Lao Cai’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, cited that Australia’s travel magazine Lonely Planet has listed Sa Pa as one of the 10 best walking sites in the world for tourists, while Sri Lanka’s Serendib has described Bac Ha minority cultural market as one of the 10 most attractive markets in Southeast Asia .
Besides, US-based Travel and Leisure Magazine has named Sa Pa’s terraced rice fields as one of seven most magnificent examples in the world, he added.
Defining tourism as the key sector in the province’s economic development strategy, Lao Cai has exerted efforts to actively promote its tourism products through various events such as the Fansipan conquering programme and Bac Ha traditional horse racing, Son said.
Besides, Lao Cai has also taken part in many international tourism fairs to introduce its tourism information and its tourism cooperation programmes with seven other northwestern provinces to domestic and foreign visitors, added Son.
Nguyen Thanh Duong, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee emphasised the unique identity of Lao Cai and economic potential from the tourism sector. He underscored the necessity to maintain and develop the local cultural identity and artisans’ skillfulness and improve the quality of tourism facilities and services.
Lao Cai has implemented measures to better its tourism environment to attract more visitors. In the 2011-2013 period, the total number of tourists to the province totalled over 3.1 million. The tourism sector helped the province earn more than 5,600 billion VND and employs 8,150 locals.
Festival promotes Vietnamese cuisine in Bangkok
A month-long Vietnam food festival opened in Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok on June 6, as one of meaningful activities to promote cultural exchanges between Vietnam and Thailand.
The opening event was attended by Vietnam’s Ambassador to Thailand Ngo Duc Thang and representatives of the Embassy of Vietnam in Thailand, the Thailand-Vietnam Culture Association, along with hundreds of overseas Vietnamese in Thailand and international friends.
Vietnam’s Ambassador to Thailand Ngo Duc Thang (in the middle) at the opening ceremony
The festival gives visitors a chance to experience unique and typical cuisines of Vietnam, while creating opportunities to strengthen cultural exchange and understanding among ASEAN countries in general and between Vietnam and Thailand in particular
A series of art works on the Vietnamese people and landscape by Vietnamese and Thai painters are also on display during the festival.
The festival runs until June 28.
ASEAN ministers committed to stronger tourism growth
Tourism ministers from ASEAN member countries have pledged to establish standards for tourism in the region as well asa common regional visa to boost tourism growth by up to 20%.
The tourism ministers were attending the 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asiain Myanmar and issued apress release announcing they are committed to promotingASEAN countries as desirable touristdestinations.
Myanmar alsohopesto boost intra-regional trade and support a common visa for ASEAN nationals to be available by next year.
At the forum, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines agreed to work on a Common ASEAN Smart Visa and signed aStatement of Intent to develop the visa.
The four countries said they hope to work with government agencies and relevant sectors to facilitate travel within the region througha common visa system.
This year’s WEF was entitled “Courageous Transformation for Inclusion and Integration”and brought together more than900 delegates, including a Vietnamese delegation led by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and over 500 business executives from 55 countries across the world.
Ha Long Bay to get clean public toilets
Tourist cruises, floating houseboats and onshore restrooms in northern Quang Ninh Province’s Ha Long Bay will be equipped with bio-toilets and composting systems to keep the local water clean.
A pilot project, run by the provincial People’s Committee and Japan’s Chodai Co Ltd, will help prevent leakage of waste water to the sea, thus, reducing breakouts of dangerous bacteria.
The technology is said to be cheaper to install and operate than normal waste treatment plants.
Luxury Travel comes closer to home
Luxury Travel has just launched tours between Vietnam and Cambodia to run every month.
The 12-day Vietnam package leaves on the first day of each month from Ho Chi Minh City, while the 14-day Cambodian journey leaves Hanoi on the 15th of each month.
Both journeys will take in the “finest food, nature and culture” according to a statement from the company.
Luxury Travel CEO Pham Ha said: “In response to market demand, our set departure offering will enable our travel partners and their clients the opportunity to book luxury tours on a predictable and affordable basis. If you book, we guarantee you will enjoy it.”
“The beauty of our luxury tours is the first hand knowledge and excellent service of local travel experts. Our trips have been carefully designed to capture the creme de la creme, and allow you to really experience the culture, flow smoothly from place to place, and allow time for relaxation and personal discovery. You will stay at hotels with great character and we ensure that you will have unique, high end experiences,” added Ha.
Luxury Travel is a long established Asian specialist in luxury privately guided and fully bespoke holidays in Vietnam and the Indochinese Peninsula.
While Thailand is geared more toward mass market tourism, Vietnam is a destination that is attractive to a more selective class of travellers.
Vietnam is becoming more recognised as a safe and favoured destination for high-end Australian tourists, thanks to direct and convenient flights and improvements in the tourism infrastructure.