Cruise tourism grows well but still lags decade-ago number

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Vietnam welcomed nearly 285,600 international tourists by cruise ship last year, rising six times from 2010, but the figure is still lower than the industryai??i??s peak a decade ago.

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According to statistics of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), there were 284,700 international tourists on cruise ships visiting Vietnam in 2001, and the figure hit over 300,000 tourists in 2002.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism earlier predicted the figure would hit one million in 2015, but this target now seems unobtainable.

Although there are more and more cruise lines arriving in Vietnam, the number of tourists is still modest, resulting from the old problems that have yet to be addressed. These include the low quality of infrastructure facilities, poor human resources, and the lack of special products as well as marketing activities.

According to Phan Xuan Anh, chairman of Viet Excursions, the number of cruise ships coming to Vietnam this year is not too low, but his firm is worried about human resources, especially people catering to Chinese-speaking visitors.

ai???We normally face a shortage of tour guides for international tourists, but now we need to have tour guides for Chinese-speaking tourists, who are not easy to find,ai??? he said.

In addition to labor difficulties, offering suitable products for cruise ship tourists is another problem. Although the cruise-ship tourists are considered a money-maker, in reality, provinces are unable to offer a special program for such important guests.

The shortage of services for these types of tourists at Tet is the perfect example. During the holiday, there will be thousands of tourists coming to Danang City on cruise ships, but they can only really visit Danang Museum of Cham Sculpture at this time if they choose not to go to the popular Thua Thien-Hue or Quang Nam provinces because shops and markets offering tourism services for cruise ship tourists in Danang City will close for the holiday.

Another barrier is that Vietnamai??i??s tourism management agencies do not have tourism promotion and marketing activities, or travel publications for visitors.

Tourism promotion agencies do not attend tourism fairs which only have the participation of travel enterprises.

However, the cruise ship tourism market does have potential and after many years of decline, it is improving and will grow.

Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Costa Crociere S.p.A, StarCruises, Silversea Cruises and AIDACARA Cruises now include Vietnam on their journeys.

Vietnam will hold an international conference on cruise ship tourism in Khanh Hoa Provinceai??i??s Nha Trang City this year with the participation of some cruise lines and local travel enterprises. It is hopeful that experts at the conference will help talk up Vietnamai??i??s cruise ship tourism to enable the nation to have some positive changes in 2013.

* The central coastal city of Danang on Wednesday welcomed the Italian five-star Seabourn Pride with 200 foreign visitors on board as the first cruise ship to the central coast city in the New Year.

Tran Chi Cuong, deputy director of the cityai??i??s Department of Culture. Sports and Tourism, and Danang Portai??i??s deputy director Nguyen Huu Sia gave flowers and sent congratulations to visitors of the cruise ship at Tien Sa Port.

* Danang frets about capacity to cater to cruise ships in Tet

Danang Cityai??i??s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism has shown worries about the cityai??i??s capacity to cater to seven international cruise ships with 7,500 visitors on board visiting the city during the Tet holiday.

There will be four cruise ships set to dock at Danang Port with over 3,100 visitors from February 8-9, or one to two days ahead of Tet. They will be served by branches of Saigontourist, Vung Tau Limited Co. and Destination. And three more ships with 4,300 tourists will come to the central coastal city from February 12 to 14, or from the third day to the fifth day of the first lunar month.

Travelers to Danang City during the Tet holiday will enjoy a hectic and colorful atmosphere of the Tet flower fair at 29/3 Square as well as a flower street to be organized for the first time by VietART OOH Co. on Bach Dang Street.

However, besides the joy to welcome international guests, the local tourism industry has a headache over the presence of many cruise ships at the cityai??i??s port on this occasion.

Nguyen Thi Chau Loan, deputy director of the Travel Management Division of the tourism department, said except for the Cham Sculpture Museum, most of services facilities in the cityai??i??s center are all inactive during the Tet holiday.

Therefore, even though international cruise ships will make calls at Danang Port, travel agencies have only arranged tours to Hue and Hoi An for cruise ship visitors. Loan urged the cityai??i??s government to call for local services providers in the tourism industry to do business throughout the year including the Tet holiday to cater to foreign customers.