A cruise docks at Da Nang's Tien Sa Port on a tour in Vietnam. The country's cruise industry has not yet invested enough to make it a top destination in Asia and the world. VNS Photo Cong Thanh

The marine tourism sector, which is a top priority of the country’s sea economy Master Plan 2030-45, has been struggling to attract investment in cruise harbours and coastal infrastructure to lure globally branded cruise fleets connected with worldwide destinations.

Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association Vu The Binh said cruise services are one of the key products in building marine tourism as a core part of the ‘blue sea economy’ plan.

Binh said sea tourism is still dealing with barriers that have blocked business and kept investors at bay for decades.

He said bottlenecks for tourism businesses and investors were the legal framework, destination management and poorly linked tour services among the 28 coastal provinces.

Vu Duy Vu, a senior expert of cruise service from Sai Gon Tourist agency, said less complicated visa arrival procedures, upgrading ports and a highway system connecting ports and destinations are necessary for the cruise industry to thrive.

“Almost all cruises have to dock at cargo ports in Vietnam, while international standards for entertainment and free-duty shops at arrival ports have yet to be developed,” Vu said.

“Representative offices of the country’s tourism industry are not available at key cruise markets such as the US, Australia and EU,” he said.

A tourist enjoys kayaking in Ha Long Bay during a cruise tour in Quang Ninh. More services and entertainment are needed for cruise growth in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Pham Ha 

Pham Ha, CEO of Lux Group, said the port system from Hai Phong to HCM City was poor quality and could not handle giant luxury or middle class cruise ships.

Ha said his own ship in Ha Long Bay needs permissions from 18 local authorities to offer on-board night-stay service, while the group’s Emperor Cruise in Nha Trang had to get an international travel certificate to host dinner on board as ordered by the local tourism authority.

He explained that tourists on his cruise had to transship to visit Lan Ha Bay in neighbouring Hai Phong after finishing a tour in Bai Tu Long in Ha Long Bay of Quang Ninh Province.

Ha said a one-stop procedure and GPS control given by port authorities of Quang Ninh and Hai Phong can help cruises exchange tour service at both bays.  

Vu Van Dao, director of Vung Tau Marina, a ship building company, said his company had to close in 2020 due to regulations on ship management and registration.

He said his 20-seat ships using Copolymer Polypropylene Polystone (PPC) from Europe were not registered for operation as no regulations on new materials for ship building existed.

Dao said his new double-hull sailing boat design was used for hosting sailing festivals, but was refused by the local industrial park management board. 

Flexible and quick responses are needed from local administrations to support the tourism business, he said.

Pham Ngoc Thuy, director of Quang Ninh provincial department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said every local destination should build their own unique product that would help keep cruise visitors in Vietnam longer.

A sailing race is organised in Ba Ria-Vung Tau. The service is rarely offered in coastal provinces and cities serving cruises in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Vung Tau Marina

Quang Ninh is a rare locality investing in ports for cruise ships, while Da Nang has begun changing dual-use Tien Sa Port for cruises only.

Thủy said local ports could be built to link cruise tour services with ports in Singapore and East Asia or Southeast Asia for wider options in different countries and destinations.

Adventurous beach sports, diving, kayaking, fishing, night art performances and entertainment should be included for local cruise fleets, while preferential policies are needed for investors in infrastructure, ship building and cruise ports, Ha added. 

Source: Vietnam News