Golf tourism is being considered a potential tourism product that can make important contributions to drawing international guests to Việt Nam in general and to Hà Nội in particular, especially guests from South Korea, Japan, the US and Europe.

In 2022, Hà Nội attracted 18.7 million visitors (17.2 million domestic and 1.5 million foreigners), 4.7 times more than in 2021.

In the first three months of 2023, the capital showed good signs of recovery with 5.88 million guests visiting, 1 million of whom were foreigners. The total income from tourists reached VNĐ21 trillion (US$901.2 million).

The city has also received various honourable titles such as Asia’s Leading City Break Destination 2022 and World’s Leading City Destination 2022 at the World Travel Awards 2022.

Hà Nội received thousands of golfers in the first three months of the year. Photo

Nguyễn Hồng Minh, deputy director of the Hà Nội Tourism Department, said in order to maintain this growth rate of the tourism sector and to reach the target of 22 million tourists this year, the city intends to boost PR activities, enhance service quality and introduce new tourism products, especially those for middle and high-end level guests.

Minh said Hà Nội has enough strengths to develop golf tourism into a special product of the city.

Taking infrastructure into consideration, there are now six clusters of golf courses with 10 standard courses, including Long Biên, Vân Trì Golf Club, Kings Island Golf, Minh Trí and Legend Hill, and some 10 practising golf courses, such as Đảo Sen, Phương Đông and Hanoi Club.

“These are large, professional golf courses reaching international standards with diverse natural landscapes, meeting the demands of players,” he noted.

Minh further analysed that there are 4 and 5–star hotels such as JW Marriot, Sheraton and Metropole with convenient access to golf courses.

“Visitors to Hà Nội can easily get access to neighbouring golf courses like the ones in Vĩnh Phúc, Hòa Bình, Hải Dương, Hải Phòng and Quảng Ninh provinces,” he said.

Competitive challenge

However, experts complained that Hà Nội has a long way to catch up with other countries in Asia in terms of the number of golf courses.

“The fee for playing golf is much higher than that in other countries and than the average income of locals, which has led to a limited number of Vietnamese people playing golf,” he said.

The number of international guests to Hà Nội to play golf remains low; the connection between travel agencies and golf courses is still weak and golf tourism has not linked with other tourism forms, he said.

Golf courses themselves have not linked with one another and have not promoted golf tourism professionally.

Phạm Thành Trí, permanent deputy president of the Việt Nam Tourism Golf Association (VTGA), showed his concerns over the high tax for the sport.

“Most travel agencies have not paid much attention to golf tourism,” he said. “The human resources in tourism have not been trained in golf properly. The golf tourism product remains poor and simple. Golf tourism has not been promoted widely and has not used much technology.”

Trí suggested to reduce the special consumption tax (the tax for running a golf course is 20 per cent) so that Vietnamese golf tourism can compete against other Southeast Asian countries.

“Golf courses should apply more technology to exchange information between clubs,” he said.

“Activities of this course should connect to those in other courses,” he said. “We should open the market for this tourism product to Europe, the US, Australia and Southeast Asia by hosting club exchanges, and tournaments for domestic and international teams.”

The VTGA will introduce Southeast Asia Tourism Golf on its website from June this year, through which customers can book golf tours to Southeast Asian countries including Việt Nam.

The association will also introduce an app to connect golf courses, training facilities, 3D golf practising rooms, hotels, airlines and tourist destinations. VNS