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An overview of the F1H2O Championship at Thi Nai Lagoon by the end of March 2024. 

In the past few weeks, the southern central province of Bình Định has become a tourism magnet for thousands of visitors at home and abroad during the 10-day Amazing Bình Định Festival with a series of sports, culture, and tourism events.

According to the local Tourism Department, the province received 112 flights from Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City between March 21 and 31.

As many as 700,000 visitors, of them 5,000 foreigners, arrived. Businesses located in the province received a total revenue of US$85.6 million from tourism.

Trần Văn Thanh, director of the Bình Định Tourism Department, said that the local tourism sector had scored significant growth since the beginning of this year. In the first quarter, the total number of visitors to the province reached 2.7 million.

Thanh said international events like the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship, Bình Định Cuisine Festival 2024, and F1H2O Championship were the main attractions during the festival.

“The UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship and F1H2O Championship are the first of their kind in Việt Nam, helping boost Bình Định tourism to a new height and help define the image of the province on the world’s travel map,” Thanh said.

The Aquabike World Championship is a powerboating sports competition, focused on racing various types of jet skis, which has been running since 1992, whereas the Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship is an international motorboat racing competition for powerboats organised by the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) and promoted by H2O Racing.

Water sports

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 Rider Rashid Al-Mulla performs freestyle aquabike at the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship in Bình Định on March 24, 2024. VNS Photo Thiên Kim

Nguyễn Thị Kim Chung, deputy director of the department, said that the authorities, in cooperation with the Culture-Sport Department and other concerned agencies, and F1 Bình Định Company, wanted to promote the festival into a typical event in Bình Định.

“We want to take this chance to introduce our tourism potential and advertise the landscape and people of Bình Định to athletes joining the event, tourists, and investors,” she said.

Chung said the province would host a conference on drawing investment to enhance facilities, and human resources to create high quality events to draw in more tourists.

“We want to push special tourism aspects here, lisuch as the cuisine, ocean tourism, culture and history, and science to create a strategy for developing tourism in Bình Định,” she said.

International friends highly appreciated Việt Nam’s potential to develop water sports.

Raimondo Di San Germano, CEO of Aquabike Promotion, noted that Việt Nam had many advantages.

“It is easy to access, and you have a lot of youth in the country,” he said. “We have seen in the last years, all the Asian countries investing a lot in these sports. Your seasons are milder than the European and American seasons. So you can race all year long. I think in the next five years, you guys will have the potential to be at the top of the world, not only for hosting events but to raise the competition globally.”

Di San Germano said he had been in Việt Nam a few times over the last two years for his job.

“I wish I could come more for the holidays, but my work comes first. This is the new wave globally today,” he said.

He believed that in the medium term, people would associate Việt Nam with such big events.

“They watch it on TV, they watch the coastline, they watch the beautiful beaches, the beautiful culture you have here,” he said. “So people will be pushed to come to Việt Nam more and more, to see the events, but also to spend holidays here, and this will benefit your economy in the long term.”

Samuel Johansson, a rider from Sweden, said that the facilities had been perfect at the recent water-sports events.

“It’s very easy to access everything from food to water to the toilet. There's a lot of space, easy access to the water, and a lot of help from the locals,” he said.

Jasmiin Ypraus, from Estonia, appreciated the paddock area and planning for the event.

“We have everything that we need that makes racing easy and better for us, so we can test our skis and be ready to race at a high level,” she said. “For me, it was the second time in the city to see all the people, and they are very positive and lovely. It was very memorable.”

Hungarian rider Kevin Reiterer was impressed by the level of the organisation and hard work put into the racing.

“The area was very nice and the organisation has put in a great effort to make it a world-class event, and I recommend it for more competitions,” he said.

“I know there is one more competition next week, so it going to be critical. It’s always so cool to come here to have so many friendly faces and supporting faces. It’s always good to have spectators, who are cheering for the sport and the competitors.”

Many locals were also excited by the racing.

“The world-standard championship has been organised here for the first time,” said Bùi Xuân Hạnh, a local resident.

“I think such an event should be organised every year to attract both domestic and international visitors to Bình Định. I think the province should be a playground for the youth, who like speed and aquabike sports, that want to be entertained in the hot summer.”

Phạm Thị Đài Trang, a woman from HCM City, could not hide her excitement about the event.

“I am living in HCM City, but today I am returning to my hometown - Quy Nhơn City - for the race,” she said. “I feel happy, and I like such sports. I hope Việt Nam can host such events more often.”

The city will host the event for the next four years.

Thị Nại Lagoon, covering an area of 5,000ha, is an ideal venue for aquabike and powerboat races.

Quy Nhơn will also host the Asian Kickboxing Championship 2024 in July, gathering boxers from 30 countries.

“Bình Định is a land with famed traditional martial arts, where the sport has been well-developed,” said Vũ Đức Thịnh, president of the Kickboxing Việt Nam Federation.

“The kickboxing championship organised here will encourage local sports movement. We appreciate the province’s capability to host big events. I hope the championship will be successful, surpassing our expectations.”

Tourism paradise

The province has various ocean tourism attractions like scuba diving among the coral, community-based tourism by the sea, ocean eco-tourism, and shopping for sea delicacies.

The local authorities have encouraged investors to develop infrastructure for hosting sports like golf, marathons, yacht racing, paddleboarding, and more.

There are 430 hotels and resorts in the province with a total of over 13,600 rooms.

Since 2021, the province has added six more big hotels, and some high-end resorts; and entertainment centres have been built, including Nhơn Lý Villa and Resort, Hải Giang Merry Land, and Thị Nại Recreational Centre.

The province also has the most number of towers from the Champa civilisation of the 7th-17th centuries. There are various vestiges of the Tây Sơn reign (1778-1802).

It is the home of many pagodas with distinguished architecture such as Thập Tháp Pagoda, Ông núi Pagoda, Long Khánh Pagoda, and Nhạn Sơn Pagoda.

There are also heritage sites associating great names of cultural figures such as classical opera playwright Đào Tấn (1845-1907), and the poets Hàn Mạc Tử (1912-1940), Xuân Diệu (1916-1985), and Yến Lan (1916-1998).

Bình Định also has various craft villages including Bàu Đá Wine-Making Village, An Thái Noodle Making Village, Trường Cửu Rice Pancake Making Village, and Phú Gia Conical Hat Making Village.

With its water sports, beautiful coastline and exceptional history and culture, the province is well on its way to being one of the nation's pre-eminent tourist hotspots. VNS