Smooth sailing for waterway tourism

Smooth sailing for waterway tourism

To tap into the potential of waterway tourism in Vietnam, several proposals have been put forward by lecturers from RMIT Vietnam's Tourism and Hospitality program.

Tailoring products to travellers’ preferences and budgets

This approach is from Dr Jackie Ong, RMIT Senior Program Manager of the Tourism and Hospitality Management program.

According to Dr Ong, short-day and weekend trips to major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang could feature scenic cruises with dining, live music, and cultural performances, together with child-friendly activities and educational content on local history and ecology.

“To highlight Vietnam's historical and cultural significance, there could be tours of the ancient temples, pagodas, traditional villages, and historical sites along the river. Alternatively, tours of the vibrant floating markets in the Mekong Delta could offer insights into local commerce, cuisine, and daily life on the water.

“Promoting eco-tourism, such as bird watching, mangrove forest visits, and national park explorations by boat, would appeal to nature enthusiasts”, said Dr Ong.

Harnessing the full potential of waterway tourism is crucial to bolstering Vietnam’s economy. (image: Unsplash) Harnessing the full potential of waterway tourism is crucial to bolstering Vietnam’s economy. (image: Unsplash)

Dr Ong also introduced a variety of options tailored to different audiences.

For adventure seekers, water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, jet skiing, and water skiing in scenic locations like Ha Long Bay and the Mekong Delta are attractive options.

For food-lovers, culinary tours could include gastronomic cruises with Vietnamese cuisine, cooking classes, and food tastings, along with visits to riverside eateries and markets. Floating restaurants could provide unique dining experiences on the water.

Festivals and events, including traditional boat races, lantern festivals, and music performances, could create a festive atmosphere that draws domestic tourists. In addition, themed cruises for holidays like Tet and National Day could add excitement and appeal.

Lastly, wellness cruises focusing on relaxation with spa treatments, yoga sessions, and meditation could cater to those seeking tranquillity and rejuvenation.

Bringing international cruise tourists onboard

According to the World Tourism Organisation, cruise tourism generates 40 per cent more revenue than tourism by air or road.

Dr Justin Matthew Pang, RMIT Associate Program Manager of the Tourism and Hospitality Management program highlighted that Vietnam should market to more Asian countries such as Korea, Singapore, Japan, and India for cruise tourism. 70 percent of international visitors to Vietnam in 2022 came from Asia and many of tourists from those countries are known to be avid cruise travellers.

It is crucial for Vietnam to improve the training of its service staff to better manage operations at ports and on cruise liners. This would range from embarkation, food and beverage management, recreational skills and rooms operations. 

He explained: “Persuasive staff might influence passengers to dine in a luxury restaurant on board the ship, instead of eating at the main all-inclusive dining hall which is part of their package. Revenues can also be derived from paid activities, be it on the ship or from land tours.

“This is the result of the hard work and persuasiveness of recreational sales staff on board the ship, hence the need for staff to be linguistically adaptable and versatile”.

Cruises in Ha Long Bay (image: Unsplash) Cruises in Ha Long Bay (image: Unsplash)

Vietnam needs to enhance their port facilities, for instance, having proper lounges for guests, as well as docking and disembarkation for the passengers.

Better off-shore activities for passengers are also required when ships dock at their ports. 

Dr Pang believes that it is essential for Vietnam to create more brand value and offer exceptional and memorable experiences to thrive in the luxury cruise tourism arena.

Promoting boat rides on Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe canal

The urban waterway route on the Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe canal offers a variety of unique tourism experiences with initiatives such as “On the wharf, in the boat”. However, its struggle to attract tourists highlights areas for improvement and opportunities for growth. 

To effectively exploit tourism on this canal route, Dr Daisy Kanagasapapathy, Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management, RMIT Vietnam said that Ho Chi Minh City could take several steps. 

First, enhanced marketing and promotion are crucial. Digital campaigns utilising social media and digital marketing can create engaging content that highlights the unique aspects of canal tours. Collaborations with travel influencers and bloggers could help reach a wider audience. 

Additionally, partnering with local businesses and hotels to offer package deals that include canal tours could boost interest. Improving the tourist experience is also essential. Developing a variety of tour packages that cater to different interests could attract a broader audience. Ensuring easy access to the canal, with clear signage, information centres, and convenient booking options, is important. Regularly gathering and analysing tourist feedback can help improve the experience.

Besides, integrating local culture and traditions into the tours, such as showcasing local crafts, music, and cuisine, could make the experience more immersive. Offering educational tours focusing on the history and ecology of the canal could also add value. 

Vietnam can draw lessons from other countries to develop canal tourism. (image: Unsplash) Vietnam can draw lessons from other countries to develop canal tourism. (image: Unsplash)

Learning from successful models in other countries provides valuable insights. For instance, Amsterdam offers a wide range of themed cruises, Bangkok integrates local markets and floating restaurants into its waterways, and Venice features iconic gondola rides with historical narratives. 

By prioritising infrastructure, service quality, diversification, marketing, and partnerships, Vietnam could unlock its waterway tourism potential and emerge as a leading destination in the region, RMIT experts concluded.

Story: June Pham

  • Tourism & Hospitality
  • Media release

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