New tours of nation's biggest cave to be organised on trial basis

Two seven-day/six-night tours, costing US$3,000 each, to the 5km-long Son Doong Cave in the central Quang Binh Province will begin this month. In addition, three five-day/four-night tours will be held each month for $2,300.

After the trial period, if operations go well, adventure tours to Son Doong Cave will be organised from February to August every year.

The cave, located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, was first discovered by a group of British scientists in 1991.

According to British experts, it is five times larger than the nearby Phong Nha Cave, previously considered to be the largest in Viet Nam. Son Doong Cave is 200m wide and 150m high.

Mekong Delta tourist promotion event to be held in Can Tho

The Da Nang Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism together with dozens of travel companies will organise a tourism-promotion event in Can Tho City on August 15, aiming to lure tourists from Can Tho and other localities in the Mekong Delta.

Da Nang is working with a number of air carriers to launch a Da Nang-Can Tho service.

The number of Mekong Delta tourist arrivals in Da Nang remains modest. Tourists from this region travel to Da Nang by road or transit in HCM City to catch a flight to Da Nang.

Hanoi’s move to support tourists

Hanoi launched a tourist support division on August 1 to solve as quickly as possible incidents reported by tourists, and provide them with necessary information about the capital city.

The move came after the municipal tourism sector discovered that tourists have been the target of theft, fraud and overcharging, especially in Dong Da, Hoan Kiem and Ba Dinh districts, which has tarnished the image of the capital city in the eyes of foreign visitors.

Tourists now can directly call the division’s two hotlines - 04.39261515 and 0946791955 - which are available 24 hours a day.

The municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism will coordinate with local police, the municipal transport department and the Hanoi Taxi Association to deal with any violations, especially those related to transport, service quality and taxi fares.

The department will continue opening new information kiosks to promote Hanoi’s tourism and provide tourists with necessary information.

Hanoi welcomed 1.2 million international arrivals and 9 million domestic tourists in the first half of this year, representing year-on-year increases of 15% and 8% respectively.

The Grand-Ho Tram Strip off to good start

The Grand - Ho Tram Strip has been off to a good start, with higher-than-expected bookings in the initial opening stage of the first integrated resort of a multi-billion-dollar Ho Tram Strip project in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

John Webb, vice president of hospitality at The Grand - Ho Tram Strip, told the Daily via email that though this luxury resort was just inaugurated last Friday, rooms of the first tower at this resort had been basically sold out for every weekend through August and into September.

“Of all of the resorts that I have opened, this one has been the most highly anticipated and has gotten off to a flying start. This is pretty phenomenal for a new resort,” said Webb, who had held key positions at resort and hotel projects in Asia and elsewhere for more than a decade.

“We have seen tremendous initial demand from local Vietnamese and locally based expatriates, as well as guests from mainland China,” Webb said.

The 541-room resort comprises of a casino of live tables and electronic game positions, meeting and convention space, thirteen bars and restaurants, a spa, teen’s and children’s areas, three swimming pools and luxury retail shops.

The resort was inaugurated less than four months after Asian Coast Development (Canada) Ltd. (ACDL) said it had guaranteed an amended investment certificate from the Government to operate the first phase of this first resort with full entertainment entitlement. This certificate also includes a gaming entitlement of 180 live tables and 2,000 electronic gaming machines split equally between the two first integrated resorts of the Ho Tram Strip project.

The certificate came in April, in less than one month after ACDL announced that “MGM will no longer be able to manage the first resort”.

Colin Pine, general director of the Ho Tram Project Company, which is the developer of the Ho Tram Strip project and subsidiary of ACDL, described the resort’s opening as “a monumental effort.”

“We stand here today not just launching a hotel, not just launching a casino - we stand here today launching a new era of tourism for Vietnam,” Pine said.

Tran Minh Sanh, chairman of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, told the opening ceremony that the inauguration of The Grand - Ho Tram Strip marked an important milestone in development of the largest-ever tourism complex in the southern province.

Sanh believed with experience and reputation of ACDL and its partners, the Ho Tram Strip project would be developed as scheduled and become an attractive destination for local and international travelers.

Michael Santangelo, vice president and chief operating officer of The Grand - Ho Tram Strip, said the response from international tour companies to the integrated resort was very encouraging.

“One tour company actually triples its original booking within 24 hours of visiting our site - a commitment of over 400 guests a month,” Santangelo said.

Webb said that the resort with “a staff of just under 2,000” was targeting some very important niche markets.

“To begin with, the international travel operators within Asia, notably in Macau, are a key target for us. We are broadly looking at an intra-Asia base for our travelers, and then further afield, to Russian tourists who have made the beaches of Vietnam a top destination. We are looking also at the domestic market, both in terms of local Vietnamese and resident expatriates,” Webb said.

The resort will have 1,100 rooms when a second tower with another 559 rooms and additional entertainment amenities of The Grand is opened in 2015. The Grand is the initial component of the Ho Tram Strip, which has a registered capital of US$4.2 billion.

This complex along a 2.2 kilometer beach-front in Phuoc Thuan Commune, Xuyen Moc District will include a Greg Norman designed golf course, The Bluffs under construction, a second integrated resort to be operated by Pinnacle Entertainment Group, three other five-star resorts.

Pine of the Ho Tram Project Company estimated the work already completed to date for the complex was US$500 million.

Syrena Vietnam commits with $2 billion Halong project

Syrena Vietnam, a subsidiary of private multi-sector BIM Group, announced to continue investing in the $2 billion Ha Long Marina project in the northern province of Quang Ninh, further expanding its footprint in real estate business.

Ha Long Marina is built on the idea of the miniature city of Sydney, covering an area of 287 hectares and stretching over 3.8 kilometers of seashore.

According to the detailed plan, Ha Long Marina is divided into 3 main areas. The first one includes a mix of coastal luxury villas, traditional villages and park. The second one will comprise the centre consisting of commerce - office - hotel, international standard conference centre, theatres, banks, trading houses and streets. And finally, the third area will comprise park and condominium complexes from 18 to 24 floors.

In addition, investors also reserve a large portion of land for public facilities such as schools, hospitals, beaches for residents and tourists. In total, over 50 sub-projects will be developed in the peninsula.

Now, people can have a piece of a modern urban life which meets the needs of living, working and entertainment in Halong Marina, the new urban area.

Currently, Syrena Vietnam has completed the first phase of Halong Marina project which is attracting a lot of hotel owners to invest in such as Royal Lotus Hotel, Muong Thanh Ha Long Place, Mirthin and Hotel Union. In the second phase, the company announced it would also invest in other developments such as Halong Marine Plaza complex, Green Bay - the first luxury apartment building in Quang Ninh and Coral Bay townhouses.

Having a strong financial support from BIM Group, in 2010, Syrena Vietnam was established with the starting investment capital of more than VND2.5 trillion ($119 million) and was regarded as one of the largest real estate companies in Vietnam.

According to Syrena Vietnam, Quang Ninh has the advantage for developing such mega projects. Furthermore, Halong Bay was recognised by UNESCO as the World Heritage and is one of the new seven natural wonders of the world.

250,000 int’l tourists come to HCM City in July

Ho Chi Minh City reports an estimated 250,000 international tourists in July, a year-on-year increase of nine percent.

Among the tourists, nearly 210,000 arrived by air.

The July figure brought the total number of foreign arrivals to Ho Chi Minh City during the first seven months of the year to 2.1 million, up 5.5 percent over the same period last year, and achieving 53 percent of the 2013 plan.

In July, the municipal tourism sector was estimated to rake in over 6,000 billion VND (282 million USD), 15 percent higher the same period last year.

The figure for the first seven months is expected to increase 13 percent to 47,000 billion VND (2.2 billion USD), accounting for 57.3 percent of the total year plan.

Hue gets new landing point

From September 2013, travelers to the ancient capital city of Hue will again touchdown and take off from the Phu Bai International Airport.

Vietnam’s transport authorities have green-lighted the airport for an early re-opening on Sept. 20, 2013 – two months ahead of schedule. The airport closed its doors on March 20 for runway repairs and upgrades, estimated between 500 and 600 billion Vietnam dong.

Located 15 kilometers from the city centre, Phu Bai Airport is the main gateway to Hue, Vietnam’s ancient capital and the seat of power during the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty. Hue’s well-preserved citadels, tombs and pagodas have been recognized by UNESCO and are among the country’s top cultural attractions.

“Restoring direct access to Hue is a crucial step in enticing visitors and boosting the city’s profile,” said Phan Trong Minh, general manager at the five-star La Residence Hotel & Spa. “Now that logistical issues are out of the way, Hue can reclaim its place as one of Vietnam’s most alluring -- and accessible -- destinations.”

National carrier Vietnam Airlines announced via its website that it will resume operations to Hue with three daily return flights from Ho Chi Minh City, and two daily return flights from Hanoi.

The improvements on the Phu Bai International Airport are part of the government’s plans to develop Hue and Vietnam’s central coast as key tourism destinations. Six months were spent upgrading the airport’s runway to allow it to receive larger aircraft. Once operational, the airport will be able to accommodate five million passengers per year.

War Museum listed in Asia’s top tourist destinations

The popular website tourism has ranked Vietnam’s War Remnants Museum the fifth best Asian tourism attraction in 2013.

Founded in Ho Chi Minh City on September 4, 1975, the museum has received between 500,000–700,000 visitors annually, 60–70% of whom are foreigners.

The museum became a member of the International Council of Museums in 2007.

The War Remnants Museum researches, collects, restores, and displays artifacts spanning a range of media that document the consequences of the past wars in Vietnam.

It also offers visitors regular opportunities to discuss the cruel realities of the wars and their after-effects with victims and firsthand witnesses.

The War Remnants Museum is run on a not-for-profit model and serves as a monument to peace and a reminder of Vietnam’s ongoing healing process.

Domestic tourism surges in first half

Vietnam’s domestic tourists reached 24 million in the first half of this year, up by 12 percent against the same period last year, and 73.8 percent of this year’s target.

The domestic tourism market has seen a continuous surge and is now a major driving force accelerating tourism development in Vietnamese localities, said Nguyen Van Tuan, General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, in a recent teleconference to review the sector’s six-month performance.

Notably, Vietnam’s key tourism localities maintained their growth and affirm their leading role in the sector, including Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Da Nang, Quang Nam and BinhThuan, he said.

Over the past time, a range of large-scale tourism facility projects such as international quality hotels and resorts have gone into operation, illustrating the country’s improvement in tourism infrastructure and services, he added.

Vietnam’s progress shows that the country is still an attractive destination in the eyes of investors despite its economic difficulties, he said, adding that Vietnam’s tourism is also highly valued by the international community and tourism experts.

Since the beginning of this year, the sector has been honoured to receive many prestigious international awards.

Hanoi, HCM City, Hoi An (Quang Nam province) and Ha Long (Quang Ninh province) received “Top Destination in Asia” awards from the world’s greatest tourism website

The website also ranked three Vietnamese museums, namely the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and the Vietnam Women’s Museum in Hanoi, and the Hon Tam Resort and Residences as the most favourite destinations in Asia.

New Marine Aquarium to open at Dam Sen Park

A new marine aquarium designed in the shape of a crab, will be inaugurated at Dam Sen Park on August 4, and will display more than 6,000 different aquatic species.

The aquarium will be the biggest freshwater fish aquarium in Vietnam and has been built at a cost of VND30 billion.

According to Ha Thanh Linh, Director of Dam Sen Park, the aquarium will display various fish species, not only from specific regions such as Mekong River but also from Spratly Islands of Vietnam, with aim to protect and preserve the invaluable marine resources of Vietnam.

Da Nang proves popular with Chinese tourists

Central Da Nang city has attracted many Chinese air travellers, welcoming 78,200 Chinese tourists by the route in the first half of this year.

That figure is expected to rise as several air routes from Kunming, Taipei, Nanjing and Dalian will resume service.

Tran Chi Cuong, Deputy Director of Da Nang's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said China was the largest tourist market for the city.

There are currently eight air routes from mainland China and one from Hong Kong that bring tourists on chartered flights to Da Nang city. On average, there are two to three flights per week.

More than 173,000 Chinese tourists visited Vietnam in July, taking the total for the first seven months to 998,900, according to the General Statistics Office.

Overall, Vietnam welcomed 658,000 international tourist arrivals in July, up 28.5 percent year-on-year, taking the total number in the first seven months to more than 4.19 million, a rise of 5.9 percent over the same period last year.

Lam Dong targets 4.3 mln tourists in 2013

The Central Highlands province of Lam Dong has designed numerous packages to lure more tourists to Da Lat city between now and the year-end, heading to the target of 4.3 million tourists in 2013.

Accordingly, local travel agencies are encouraged to launch promotion campaigns such as promotion month, golden week and tour discounts.

The province is paying attention to promote the local tourism with the establishment of tourist information centres and the organisation of farm trips to new destinations.

Da Lat city will run a campaign to clean the tourism environment, focusing on building standardised toilets at tourist sites and forming people’s communication and shopping culture.

The province will launch campaigns to plant trees and flowers at public places, main streets, agency headquarters and people’s houses while investing in improving infrastructure and service quality in preparation for the Lam Dong cultural festival week to be organised late this year.

Statistics of the provincial Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism show that during the first half of 2013, the province welcomed more than 2.1 tourists, including 120,000 foreigners.

The province set a target of attracting additional 2.2 million visitors in the remaining months of the year.

World's longest cable car to open on Da Nang's Ba Na Mountain

The world's longest, highest cable car valued at 30 million euros (US$39.7 million) will be put into operation in the central city of Da Nang next March. The third cable car at Ba Na Hills is expected to break the record set by the first one, built in 2009 and recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The cable car will be 5,772m long and 1,369m high. It is designed to have 86 cabins able to transport 1,500 passengers per hour between the base of Ba Na Mountain and its top, where a resort is located at a height of 1,489m above sea level.