Long Bien Market receives Asian acclaim

Long Bien Market in Vietnam’s Hanoi capital city has been named by travel website gobackpacking.com among the top five most exciting markets in Southeast Asia.

This biggest central food distribution market in Hanoi is described by the website as "alive and booming with customers, transportation and delivery vehicles everyday in the early morning hours".

According to the website, the market, which is located to the north of the capital's Old Quarter, impresses with the huge quantity of fresh produce, including giant piles of herbs, tonnes of vegetables and tropical fruit that cover the market and sprawl out onto the adjacent streets.

The Chatuchak Market in Bangkok tops the list and is described as one of the city's biggest attractions for both locals and tourists.

Gobackpacking.com was founded in 1998 by David Lee, a well-known travel blogger, and is a popular online guide to independent travel and one of the top 100,000 sites in the world.

Hanoi ranks 5th in Asia’s must-see sights

Vietnam’s Hanoi capital has risen to fifth place among the top ten destinations in Asia 2013, according to a recent report by Hong Kong-based travel and trade journal, Smart Travel Asia.

Ratings are based on such criteria as holiday suitability and quality of shopping, services, hotels, restaurants, and transportation.

For many consecutive years, Hanoi has managed to retain its position as one of the ten most attractive cities in Asia, reflecting the city’s constant efforts in creating a safe and friendly environment for tourists.

As of September, the number of international visitors travelling to the city is estimated at 1.9 million, up 20% compared to the same period last year.

Hanoi officials hope this figure will continue to rise and more and more foreigners will be enticed to visit the vibrant city.

Thua Thien-Hue expands int’l tourism links

A famtrip delegation comprised of 30 international travel agencies conducted a fact-finding tour of the central province of Thua Thien-Hue on September 20.

The delegation, with its 47 members representing countries such as France, Italy, Russia, and the Republic of Korea, were invited by travel agencies like Saigontourist, Hanoitourist, Vietravel, and Ben Thanh Tourist.  

They surveyed tourism routes and joined a Gala Dinner organized by Thua Thien-Hue’s provincial People’s Committee.

During their two-day stay, they will visit historical and natural relics, sample Hue’s cuisine, and participate in tourism fairs.

Tour operators in Thua Thien-Hue welcomed local businesses to a seminar intended to encourage cooperation and explore partnership opportunities.

Provincial authorities introduced the Hue Festival 2014, the 2014 Golden Tourism Week, and the Hue Relics Preservation Centre’s attractions for foreigners.

Thua Thien-Hue is commemorating 20 years of its Hue imperial relic complex recognised as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site, and 10 years of the Hue Royal Court music’s inclusion as intangible cultural heritage of humankind.

The reopening of the upgraded Phu Bai International Airport on September 20 is expected to attract more tourists to the province.

Vietnam Airlines increases flights to RoK

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA) has announced its plan to increase the number of flights between Vietnamese and Republic of Korean destinations as of October 28.

The airline will add four more flights to the Ho Chi Minh City-Incheon route, coded VN406 and VN407 and operating on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Five flights will be added to the Hanoi-Pusan route, designated VN429 and operating on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

Seven flights a week currently serve these two routes.

VNA is offering 29% discounts on Ho Chi Minh City-Seoul route for tickets purchased two weeks in advance and 22% discounts for tickets booked one week before departure.

It is also offering discounts to Korean passengers travelling from Ho Chi Minh City to Seoul from now until March 2014. Tickets will cost 36% less if purchased at least two weeks before departure.

VNA is the only Vietnamese airline to fly directly from Vietnam to Seoul and Pusan.

Vietnam ranks 4th best ASEAN tourism attraction

Vietnam is ranked fourth best ASEAN tourism attraction in 2012, according to an ASEAN report released on September 17.

The 2012 Community Progress Monitoring System (ACPMS) report revealed that tourists from outside ASEAN coming to Vietnam made up the largest proportion, with 88 percent of the total number of foreign tourists to the country.

It also specified that tourist spending in Vietnam in 2011 made up 4.5 percent of the national GDP and 63.3 percent of the country’s export service turnover. Tourism exports accounted for 65.7 percent of the total export service turnover.

During 2005-2011, the country’s tourism sector enjoyed a trade surplus and hit US$4 million in 2011. Vietnam ’s tourism export is ranked in the mid-level group among ASEAN countries.

Vietnam attends global tourism economy forum

As many as 1,000 delegates from countries and territories are attending the Global Tourism Economy Forum (GTEF 2013) in Macao from September 17-19.

At the opening ceremony, the Head of the Macao Special Administrative Region said that despite global complications, the number of foreign arrivals rose 5% globally to nearly 500 million in the first six months of 2013.

The impressive figure testifies to the fact that the tourism industry has huge potential for development, contributing significantly to global economic growth.  

In his address, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Ho Anh Tuan affirmed Vietnam always attaches importance to promoting this “non-smoking” industry.

Besides drawing up a national tourism development strategy until 2020 and with a vision for 2030, Vietnam has set specific tourism targets for various periods of development.

Recently, he said Vietnam hosted a conference in HCM City, with the participation of representatives from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand, discussing the application of a single visa mechanism for the five involved countries to promote cross-border travel.

Thanks to constant efforts, Vietnam has become one of Asia’s attractive and friendly destinations for international visitors, Tuan noted.

He also highlighted the country’s tourism potential and pledged to create favorable conditions for foreign tour operators to expand their business in Vietnam.

GTEF 2013, initiated by the China Chamber of Tourism in 2012, is hosted by the Macao SAR Government and coordinated by the Global Tourism Economy Research Centre.

The forum, themed “Regenerate Our Economies: Invest in Travel and Tourism”, is an interactive discussion platform designed to capture a macro view of the interplay between tourism and other major economies and the momentum that each builds upon the growth of the other, contributing to the socio-economic development among countries.

Vingroup builds enormous tourist hub in Binh Dinh

The Binh Dinh People's Committee and Vingroup Joint Stock Company has broken ground for the construction of the biggest-ever tourism area in this central province.

With a total investment of VND3.5 trillion (US$166 million), the Vinpearl Hai Giang covers an area of 656ha. It is designed to be an eco-tourism site including a five-star hotel, villa area with commercial service and sports centre, a cable car system and an 18-hole golf course.

The 1.5km cable car system, which first appears in central Binh Dinh Province, is being built in Quy Nhon City from Mui Tan to Phuong Mai peninsula. It is expected to be completed and come into operation in 2017.

Casino eco-resort project approved in Phu Quoc

Authorities in the southern province of Kien Giang have approved a casino eco-tourism resort project in Phu Quoc Island District.

Foreign investors participating in the bid to develop the project must prove their financial capacity and pledge to invest at least US$4 billion.

The casino is designed to cover an area of 30,000sq.m, accommodating 2,000 slot machines and 200 to 400 table games. The duration for the casino operating licence will be 30 years.

Sofitel Plaza launches French wine week

Sofitel Saigon Plaza will host a Wine Programme highlighting the rich variety of French vintage wines from September 23 – 30.— File Photo

(VNS) Sofitel Saigon Plaza will host a Wine Programme highlighting the rich variety of French vintage wines from September 23 – 30.

Its restaurant L'Olivier will present a wine collection of six famous wine regions of France, including Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Southwest, Rhone, Burgundy and Alsace with special discounts. The chefs will also design a food menu paired with each kind of wine.

The hotel is at 17 Le Duan Street in District 1.

Luxury ship launched in Ha Long

The five-star Starlight Cruise launched in Ha Long Bay by the Oriental Sails Company last Sunday is offering a 2 day-1 night package at US$185 per person in September and $215 from October 1 to December 31.

Oriental claims the 58m cruise vessel is the safest in Ha Long with more than three metres of draft. The company operates just the one luxury ship now but plans to add four more.

Starlight Cruise has 32 cabins besides a restaurant, a bar, two lounges, a library, a wine cellar, hot tubs, and a mini-golf course.

Quang Ninh to publicise tour prices

The northern Quang Ninh Province will publish the average prices of package tours and travel services offered by tour companies on its website and Quang Ninh newspaper for tourists' benefit.

The administration has ordered the finance and culture, sports and tourism departments to do a survey to find the rates.

Around 5.7 million visitors arrived in the province in the first eight months of this year, a 12 per cent rise year-on-year.

They included 1.6 million foreigners.

The province also plans to exploit three destinations in Bai Tu Long Bay – Hon Xep Park, Van Canh Island, and Lo O for tourism purposes.

Bai Tu Long Bay is east of Ha Long Bay and is geologically very similar to the latter, but has not seen comparable tourism development.

The ecological zone of the bay stretches over an area of 100ha with more than 100km of coastline.

Ninh Thuan to organise wine fest

A three-day International Grapes and Wine festival will be held in Phan Rang City in Ninh Thuan Province to promote the economic potential of the fruit as well as attract tourists.

Organised by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the province, the festival will have more than 100 booths showcasing products made from grapes from Viet Nam as well as and France, Chile, Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Romania, and Germany.

The festival, expected to be held in April, will also feature an exhibition on grapes and wines, cuisine and kite-flying contests, and recreations of the acts of planting, harvesting, and producing wine and other grape products.

Vietnam fails consistently at marine tourism development

Vietnam has many advantages for marine tourism development, however, the country still fails to develop its marine tourism services.

The number of marine tourists to Vietnam remains low compared to what it could be, accounting for only 4%-5% of the country’s total visitors. This is partially attributed to poor port infrastructure. Currently, most Vietnamese ports are used for cargo transport, not for cruises, therefore, many of them are substandard and unsafe for travelers.

At many big ports, one often sees trucks and cranes moving along the dock next to passengers. Many ports do not have quays to receive passengers, therefore, cruise ships have to dock quite far from the shore and small boats are often used to carry passengers to land--as in the case of Hon Gai Port. As a result, a number of cruise ships have to reduce the frequency of their visits to Vietnam. Not to mention that once the tourists have landed they are harassed by unlicensed taxi drivers who rush at them like hungry wild animals.

Speaking with DTiNews reporters, Associate Prof. Dr. Pham Trung Luong, Deputy Head of the Institute of Tourism Development Research, said, “Vietnam has a 3,600-km coastline, but there is not one specialised port for cruise ships. Vietnam has seen an constant rise in the number of cruise visitors, and If we have specialised ports for these passengers, the benefits for Vietnam's tourism industry will be tremendous”.

More bad news comes in the form of the cheating done by  unlicensed tourist businesses--e.g. online ads for non-existent cheap tours-- which obviously affects negatively the operation of legal ones, including those operating in the marine tourism area. Meanwhile, licensed tour operators have to make an effort in marketing and must pay port fees for their ship operations.

A number of companies assign tourism business activities to individuals who then sell the tours to other tour guides. This has affected the service quality, for instance, despite paying high fees, customers are only offered poor meals and accommodation.

A representative from a cruise tourism company said most  foreign cruise ships now come to Vietnam just for transit purposes. Their stay averages just 2-3 days at one or two ports.

Chartered flights to bring HK visitors to Cam Ranh

Cam Ranh Airport in Nha Trang City in the south-central coastal province of Khanh Hoa will welcome two chartered flights each month carrying Hong Kong visitors from late November this year.

The plan to take Hong Kong visitors to Nha Trang on chartered flights is initiated by a foreign tourism company, just like the case of Russian travelers being flown to Cam Ranh, said Truong Dang Tuyen, director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Tuyen said Hong Kong-based JJ Explorer Tours and its local partner had already worked with the tourism department on launching chartered flights using the airplane of Vietnam Airlines. In the first phase, chartered flights on the route will be arranged from the end of November to March next year, he said.

“JJ Explorer Tours has taken many representatives of Hong Kong media and travel agencies to Nha Trang to promote the local destination among Hong Kong visitors. The plan of using chartered flights is just the first step to explore the Hong Kong market and such flights will be run more regularly if the pilot run proves positive,” Tuyen said.

Russian visitors still make up the majority of international arrivals in Nha Trang, at roughly 70%. As the number of Hong Kong visitors to the central coast city remains modest, adopting chartered flights can be a breakthrough to develop this market further.

Apart from chartered flights from Russia and South Korea, Cam Ranh International Airport now handles only one direct air service from Moscow operated by Vietnam Airlines. The national air carrier next month will increase the frequency on this route from one to two weekly flights.

Khanh Hoa welcomed around 2.3 million visitors in 2012 with some 530,000 of them foreigners, the tourism department reports. In this year’s January-July period, more than 1.65 million visitors came to the province, with international arrivals totaling 353,300, growing 50% year-on-year, according to the department.

Travel agencies, hotels ‘successful’ at tourism expo

Local tour operators and hotels have met scores of potential partners at the International Travel Expo (ITE) 2013 in HCMC with many having cut deals with foreign customers.

Tu Quy Thanh, director of Lien Bang Travel Link, said that his firm had already set up working schedules with a slew of foreign partners before the tourism exhibition and then met more than 20 partners at the event, including five new customers from other ASEAN nations.

Visitor numbers that these partners commit to bring to Vietnam are still small but they have huge potential, Thanh said, adding that his company striking a deal with five new clients at the city exhibition was a positive result.

Saigontourist Travel Services Company worked with 64 customers from different markets like the U.S., Britain, Russia, Israel, the Netherlands and Poland and signed agreements with them with plans to inform them of tour prices later. Along with attracting more customers for inbound tourism, Saigontourist already sold numerous local tours and others to Asian nations at low prices.

“As customer quality of this year’s expo is higher than previous years, we were able to promote domestic, inbound and outbound tourism segments,” said Doan Thi Thanh Tra, marketing manager of Saigontourist.

Similarly, hotels under Saigontourist Holding Company also reported positive results at the exhibition, with some finding potential customers from new markets.

Tran Thai Nguyen, sales and marketing manager of the Rex Hotel, informed that his hotel directly met fewer customers this year but those they did were better clients. Multiple customers in new markets sought business tie-ups with local firms to bring visitors to Vietnam due to a rising demand in their countries.

“Among the customers we met, about 10 partners from Britain and Turkey want to bring visitors to Vietnam. They are potential clients,” he said.

Ben Thanh Tourist and others recorded encouraging results. Ben Thanh Tourist met over 100 partners from Italy, Russia, Germany, Australia and Greater Mekong Sub-region nations besides meeting a number of partners from fresh markets such as India, Poland and Mexico and winning contracts from Bulgaria and Italy.

This year’s international tourism expo “Five Nations-One Destination” took place at the Saigon Exhibition & Convention Center in HCMC’s District 7 from last Thursday until Saturday. The annual event was arranged by the city’s tourism department, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism and exhibition organizers Vinexad and Infoma.

Foreign travel agencies visit Thua Thien-Hue province

A 47-member Famtrip delegation is on a visit to the central province of Thua Thien-Hue to survey its tourist attractions and products.

During their September 20-21 stay, the guests, who are representatives of 30 travel agencies from France, Italy, Russia and the Republic of Korea, plan to visit garden houses in Kim Long village, Dai Noi Hue (Hue inner city) and the Thanh Tan hot mineral water area, enjoy Hue’s culinary art, and participate in a tourism fair.

On the occasion, the province’s travel companies will host a seminar to promote its tourism products and potentials, while seeking cooperation opportunities with the guest agencies.

The province will also introduce activities during the Hue Festival and the “gold tourism week” in 2014 as well as new services of the Hue Relic Conservation Centre to the delegation.

Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Ngo Hoa hailed the visit as it is made on the occasion of the 20 th anniversary of the recognition of the Hue Relic Complex as a world tangible heritage and 10 years since the UNESCO recognised the “ Nhac nhac cung dinh Hue ” (Hue Royal Court Music) as an intangible cultural heritage of humankind.

HCM City welcomes 2.8m foreign arrivals

Overseas arrivals to Ho Chi Minh City rose above 2.8 million in the first nine months of the year, up 3 percent from the same period in 2012.

According to the municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the number of foreign visitors to the city in the period fulfilled 68 percent of its yearly target of 4.1 million.

The city’s nine-month tourism revenue reached an estimated 63 trillion VND (3 billion USD), a year-on-year increase of 20 percent, and 77 percent of this year’s target.

The encouraging outcome was attributed to the city’s tourism stimulus programme, which started in early April. Sale promotion months being held from September to December 2013 are also predicted to have a positive effect.-

2013 Con Son-Kiep Bac festival opens

The Hai Duong provincial People’s Committee on September 21st opened the 2013 Con Son-Kiep Bac Festival and commemorated the 713th anniversary of the death of national hero Tran Hung Dao.

On the first day of this festival, a parade from the Temple of Nam Tao and Bac Dau, a folklore singing and a festival for troops on Luc Dau River took place.

Earlier, on September 20th, the 571st commemoration ceremony for national hero, world’s cultural celebrity Nguyen Trai was held at the Temple of Nguyen Trai.

Other activities, to be held during the four-day festival of Con Son-Kiep Bac, include a boat racing, a rite praying for peace, a festival of flower garlands and coloured lanterns, folklore singing and folk games.

Soc Trang to host first ghe ngo boat race

The first Ghe Ngo Boat Race Festival of Khmer People in the Mekong Delta will be hosted in Soc Trang Province from November 14 to 17. The festival aims to provide more local tourism products for locals and tourists in the delta.

There will be 50 ghe ngo teams from Soc Trang, Can Tho, Tra Vinh, Ca Mau, Bac Lieu, Kien Giang, Vinh Long and Hau Giang provinces competing on the river in Soc Trang City on racing days on November 16 and 17. The organizers will spend around VND2.5 billion, of which VND1 billion will be used for awards for winning teams.

The festival will feature activities such as a commercial fair, exhibitions on achievements in the economy, society and culture in Soc Trang, food festival of the Khmer, Kinh and Chinese people, folk games, workshops, a photo exhibition ‘Soc Trang’s Memories’ and music and dance shows.

Visitors will also have a chance to enjoy Ooc Om Boc offering rituals, lantern releasing ceremony and fashion contest.

Soc Trang is home to around 370,000 Khmer people. The festival will be coincide with the moon offering ceremony Ooc Om Boc and Loy Protip lantern-releasing festival of Khmer people to express their gratitude to the moon for a good harvest.

Check out the website at http://festival.soctrang.gov.vn.

Thousands flock to Lam Kinh Festival

Visitors from across the country are headed to the 2013 Lam Kinh festival, which takes place from September 24-26 at the Lam Kinh historical site in Tho Xuan district, Thanh Hoa province.

The annual festival honours national hero Le Loi, who is also known as Le Thai To, the first king of the Vietnamese Le dynasty, as well as the heroes and people who joined the Lam Son Uprising against the Chinese Ming invaders to win national independence.

This year’s festival commemorates the 595th anniversary of the Lam Son Uprising; 585 years since King Le Thai To was enthroned; and his 580th death anniversary.

On the occasion, a ceremony to receive the Prime Minister’s certificaterecognisingthe Lam Kinh historical site as a Special National Relic is also scheduled to be held.

The three-day festival features traditional rituals that represent historical events during the Le dynasty such as a liturgy and a palanquin procession from the Le Thai To Temple to Lam Kinh Temple.

The festival features a series of performances such as traditional Xuan Pha folk performance, along with other art performances and folk games.

Additionally, Thanh Hoa provincial Centre for Film Distribution and Projection is going to introduce a wide variety of documentaries on the Lam Kinh historical site, the Lam Son Uprising and well-known mans of Vietnam to local people.

The Grand – Ho Tram Strip hosts model festival

2014 New Star Model Festival will be held for the first time at The Grand – Ho Tram Strip in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province from October 24-26.

The contest is organized by The Grand – Ho Tram Strip and the Korea Model Association with an aim to find talents in the local fashion industry to make their mark in South Korea.

The winners who pass two challenges will receive a sponsored trip to Seoul in January.

In the framework of the program, the organizers also run a gala music event with the participation of some K-pop bands and a contest to find a Vietnamese member for a Korean band. The winner will be trained and perform with the band for one or two years.

On the occasion, the resort also offers travelers a three-day-two-night tour to watch the events unfold next month accompanied with other entertainment activities on Ho Tram Beach. Additionally, participants will enjoy a round trip by Limo Bus from HCMC to the resort accompanied with a two night stay in luxury rooms and morning buffets at one of ten restaurants at The Grand – Ho Tram Strip.

The event receives media sponsorship from The Guide magazine, Golf & Life magazine, Her World, Aviation, Good Morning Vietnam and numerous Korean TV stations, including KBS, SBS, MBC, Arirang and CJ E&M.

The Grand – Ho Tram Strip has 541 five-star rooms, with high standard services like The Spa, outside swimming pools, integrated game centers, bars and restaurants.

For further information, call (064) 378 8022, 0975889842 or 0909106184 or via website: www.asianewstar.com.