|A cruise stops at the Ha Long International Cruise Port, the first specialised passenger port in Vietnam that just opened in late November in Ha Long City, Quang Ninh province
Addressing the event, Vice Chairman of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) Ngo Hoai Chung said cruise tourism has been the fastest growing sector of the travel industry for the past few years globally. Often chosen by wealthy people, cruise tourism can make a significant economic impact for the locality.
Sea and island tourism, which includes cruise tourism, is considered one of the priorities in the tourism development strategy of Vietnam, said Chung.
Vietnam has numerous advantages to become an attractive cruise tourism destination with its location in the centre of Southeast Asia, some 3,200 km of coast, more than 3,000 beautiful islands and diverse and unique culture, said Chung.
The growth rate of cruise tourist numbers to Vietnam is relatively low compared to the total number of tourists. In the first 11 months of 2018, Vietnam welcomed more than 400,000 cruise tourists, accounting for only 2 to 3 percent of total international tourists.
Vietnam still faces challenges including a poor seaport system, substandard cruise terminal facilities, bad infrastructure, unattractive tourism products and a lack of long-term action plans to attract cruise tourists, according to Chung.
He suggested Vietnam should invest more in infrastructure, cruise terminal facilities as well as shore itineraries and develop unique tourism products to tap its cruise tourism potential.
To make Vietnam a viable cruise destination, the country should improve its itineraries, cruise facilities and shore excursions, said Ahmad Kamal Bin Abdollah, manager of Cruise Port Development of the NV Terminals in Malaysia.
The various destinations within Vietnam have a solid mix of excursion offerings. The challenge remains in developing new facilities at these destinations and where such facilities are not optimal, improving the overall experience such that the inconvenience is minor and the rewards are great, he said.
In 2017, Vietnam welcomed 407 cruise ships compared to 466 ships in the previous year. Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang saw the highest number of ships visiting the country.
This year, Vietnam expects to welcome 500 ships, up 21percent from the previous year.