Accounting for 70% of tourism activities in Vietnam, sea and island tourism is one of the country’s most popular types, attracting more foreign tourists each year.
As a Southeast Asian country with a very long coastline, Vietnam is known for its plentiful beautiful beaches. Sea tourism has great potential and plays an important role in the country’s tourism development, and has helped the country earn its reputation amongst tourists.
Vietnam is blessed with a 3,260km long coastline and more than 3,000 islands. The S-shaped country has more than 125 beaches, most of which are beautiful including Danang city’s own beach that was voted by Forbes magazine as one of the most attractive beaches on the planet.
Vietnam is also proud of its many pristine bays, beautiful caves and lush tropical year-round islands. Seven of Vietnam’s 13 world heritage sites are in coastal areas, as are six of its eight biosphere reserves, and many of its national parks and nature conservation areas are concentrated in coastal areas. Vietnam is also home to two of the most beautiful bays in the world, Halong bay and Nha Trang bay.
In order to effectively tap those advantages, Vietnam has invested in developing many famous coastal destinations across the country including Halong bay and Van Don in Quang Ninh; Cat Ba island in Haiphong, Con Dao island in Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Phu Quoc island in Kien Giang to name a few.
Vietnamese communities are well-established in coastal areas and have created special island and sea cultures that include folk festivals, culinary culture and unique local cultures all of which can be used to help develop sustainable sea tourism. Tourism infrastructure and transport systems, especially systems of coastal accommodation have also been a focus.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the coastal regions have nearly 1,400 accommodation facilities that supply more than 45,000 rooms, especially 3-5 star hotels with the ability to meet large delegations and MICE tourism. Local sea tourism products have also been developed into brands that are imbued with cultural identity, significantly contributing to the development of typical sea tourism products associated with tours.
To increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of marine tourism, a wide variety of sports and recreational services in the water and the sea have been put into operation, including boating, sailing, windsurfing, beach football and volleyball. The sea can also beviewed from above by roller coaster, hotair ballon, airplane (in Nha Trang and Danang) or by helicopter (in Halong bay and Danang), all of which are popular amongst tourists.
Thanks to these advantages, the number of foreign tourists coming to the coastal regions has tended to continually increase and currently accounts for nearly 80% of the total number of foreign visitors to Vietnam, while the number of domestic tourists flocking to these areas accounts for over 50% of total domestic tourists who travel across the country.
The development of sea tourism has drastically changed the appearance of many coastal localities in Vietnam. Mui Ne beach (Binh Thuan) has grown from a poor fishing village to being known as “the resort capital” or “paradise of relaxation” of Vietnam. In recent years, Phu Quoc has gradually become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia and is predicted by CNN to be fashioned as “the next Phuket”, bringing many benefits to Vietnam’s tourism as well as resort tourism investors.
Some other localities such as Ninh Thuan, Quang Ninh, Danang, Hoi An and Vung Tau have also recorded surprisingly rapid economic growth, becoming very attractive destinations and contributing to promoting the image of Vietnam’s sea tourism both in the region and globally.
In addition to inshore islands, Vietnam’s offshore islands have rich coral reef ecosystems with high marine bio-diversity values – ideal conditions to develop marine sports tourism, sightseeing tours, study tours abd scuba diving trips to explore the coral reef ecosystems.
With the goal of bringing Vietnam into the group of countries with the most developed sea tourism in Southeast Asia (including Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia) in 2020, Vietnam will form five highly competitive sea-based tourist attractions in the region including Halong-Cat Ba, Lang Co-Son Tra-Hoi An, Nha Trang-Cam Ranh, Phan Thiet-Mui Ne and Phu Quoc tourist sites.
As well as these, other potential sea tourism areas including Van Don-Co To will also be invested and developed, initially starting tours to Truong Sa before investing and exploiting five specialised tourist ports in Halong, Danang, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Quoc.
The promotion of island and sea tourism development is in line with the strength of Vietnam’s tourism industry. It is expected that by 2020, Vietnam’s sea tourism will attract 22 million international visitors, 58 million domestic tourists and total sea tourism revenue will reach VND200,000 billion. However, to make a mark and attract tourists to make return trips, Vietnam needs to promote the cultural elements of each locality in the development of sea tourism, especially in the five most attractive sea tourism destinations today, as outlined below.
Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang
In March 2019, Phu Quoc officially made the list of destinations for the global super-rich when a million dollar wedding party of an Indian billionaire couple was held at the 5-star resort JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, widely reported by international media.
Previously, Phu Quoc-the largest tourist island in Vietnam-was famous amongst domestic and foreign tourists for its 150km long coastline with many beautiful beaches stretching from north to south. Phu Quoc is considered a new paradise of tourism and resorts with the appearance of a series of high-class resorts named amongst the “World’s leading new resort 2017” awarded by World Travel Awards including JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, Condotel Premier Residences Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, Premier Village Phu Quoc Resort, Salinda Resort and Vinpearl Phu Quoc.
In entertainment development, the tourism and entertainment complex Sun World Hon Thom nature park featuring the world’s longest cable car route connecting An Thoi town with the beautiful Hon Thom island off Phu Quoc, Vinpearl Resort & Spa Phu Quoc and the entertainment complex, Vinpearl Safari Animal Care and Conservation Park offer amazing experiences to visitors.
Currently, Phu Quoc is investing in the development and upgrading of high-class tourism products associated with various types of activities such as swimming, relaxation, sea ports, casinos, diving, coral and fishing, promising to bring Phu Quoc tourism new and unique products.
The emergence of more and more foreign airlines with 12 international routes to four countries including China, the Republic of Korea (RoK), Russia and Thailand and four routes to provinces and cities in Vietnam has created favourable conditions to promote international cooperation around Phu Quoc’s tourism industry.
Con Dao, Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province
Con Dao is an archipelago of 16 beautiful islands, located off the southeast coast of Vietnam and is one of the most impressive islands in Asia. The beauty of Con Dao is praised by tourists as well as local and international press. In 2013, Con Dao was voted by prestigious travel magazine Lonely Planet as one of the nine most mysterious islands in the world.
Recently, Business Insider ranked Con Dao on its list of places with the clearest blue water in the world. Although Con Dao is a famous beach destination, it has an extremely wild and pristine natural beauty and fresh clean air. The landscape is well preserved, so visitors to Con Dao will easily see wild animals and rare and precious birds as well as having the chance to participate in many interesting activities such as watching sea turtles laying eggs at night, sailing, diving and snorkeling and visiting bird islands.
The peace and tranquility found on Con Dao is also suitable for those who want to stay in a luxurious space and experience a slow life with high-end resorts like Six Senses Resort Con Dao, Con Dao Sunshine Resort and Poulo Condor Boutique Resort & Spa. However, the island is a little harder to reach as no direct international flights operate to Con Dao, flights are limited in quantity with only two routes from the island-to Can Tho and to Ho Chi Minh City, and the price is relatively high.
Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa
Over the past 10 years, Nha Trang has become a tourist brand of the Central Coast and is also one of Vietnam’s key tourist destinations. With increasing popularity and international arrivals, the National Geographic Magazine ranked Nha Trang in the top 50 beautiful beaches in the world.
Possessing a long coastline, mild climate and beautiful scenery, Nha Trang has great potential to develop high-class resorts, sea sports and explore landscapes associated with MICE tourism.
It is also a popular destination for activities and sports such as mud baths, scuba diving, jet skiing, windsurfing, and fly-boarding. Nha Trang is one of the country’s most modern tourist destinations that gives visitors to Vietnam a rich experience. The appearance of the world’s leading hotel management groups such as Marriott, InterContinental, Best Western, Accor and Wyndham in the role of managing and operating hotels here has contributed to improving the quality of tourism services in Nha Trang.
This beautiful coastal city was also selected to host many important events of APEC 2017 or most recently the National Tourism Year 2019 event with the theme “Nha Trang-Colours of the sea,” showing the position of Nha Trang in the Vietnamese tourism industry.
Like Nha Trang, Danang is currently one of the most attractive beach destinations in Vietnam, with many beautiful beaches like Non Nuoc, Son Tra, My Khe and Tien Sa.
In particular, My Khe beach was voted by Forbes Magazine (USA) as one of the most attractive beaches on the planet with famous eco-tourism areas, magnificent resorts and luxury hotels. The names that make up the luxury resort branding for Danang include the Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsular Resort, Furama Resort Danang, Premier Village Danang Resort, Fusion Maia Resort Danang and Vinpearl Luxury Danang.
In addition, Danang is also known as a vibrant coastal city with many world-class entertainment areas including Ba Na Hills, Sun Rotation-Sun Wheel, and the Asia Park amusement park. Thanks to the convenience of transportation links that includes 32 direct flights from China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand, England, Australia and Malaysia to Danang, the number of international visitors to Danang has increased sharply in recent years.
Halong Bay-Quang Ninh
Quang Ninh is one of the tourism centres of Vietnam with Halong Bay its highlight. The bay is one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam and has UNESCO World Heritage status.
Halong Bay was honoured as one of the ten most impressive coastal lines in the planet by US publication Huffington Post. At the end of 2018, the Haiphong-Halong highway, Halong international cruise port, Halong-Van Don, Van Don-Mong Cai highways and especially Van Don International Airport came into operation, and Quang Ninh became the first province in the country to have a modern, synchronous and world-class tourism infrastructure.
Quang Ninh tourism industry in general and Halong in particular have made great progress with the emergence of more and more high-class hotels and entertainment complexes including Sheraton Halong Bay, Wyndham Legend Halong, Halong Ocean Park, Tuan Chau International Entertainment Centre and Sunworld Halong Park.
In 2019, Van Don International Airport will open more domestic routes and exploit international routes to potential Asian markets like Taiwan (China), Thailand, China, the Republic of Korea and Japan, and Quang Ninh will establish new tourist centres to attract international tourists such as Van Don and Co To.