| Chan May Port welcoming international cruise ships. Photo by: Tuan Kiet
More opportunities, more concerns
In 2017, as a member of the provincial tourism industry delegation welcoming international cruise passengers to Chan May Port, I had the opportunity to board this super cruise ship. It is no exaggeration to compare it to a miniature city with full amenities and services, ranging from from entertainment, sports areas, theaters to shopping areas, etc.
What’s special was that the passengers on the ship were also the ones who were willing to spend heavily. Unfortunately, through the exchange with passengers, many shared that their destination was Da Nang or the ship itself. Upon searching for information on related issues at that time, some reports indicated that only about 10% of cruise ship passengers arriving at Chan May Port went to Hue City to visit attractions or to go shopping.
The story of more than 6 years ago is probably very different from the present’s one. However, from the perspective of one person longing for the development of Ancient Capital tourism, the above concern still exists. From 2018 to June 2023, relevant units of Thua Thien Hue Province have handled procedures for 116 cruise ships carrying over 208,000 tourists and more than 91,000 crew members from many countries around the world. The number of cruise ships in the period 2018 - 2019 increased steadily over the years, but cruise lines had to cancel many trips due to the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
| The services provided on cruise ships are extremely good. As a result, it is necessary to invest in creating attractive products for customers
Recently, at the conference “Evaluating the management of international cruise tourism business activities at seaports of Thua Thien Hue Province in the period 2018 – 2023”, Mr. Pham Van Thuy, Deputy Director of Vietnam National Tourism Administration, believed that the potential and strengths of Vietnam’s marine tourism in general, and Thua Thien Hue in particular, had not yet been effectively promoted.
Obviously, prior to thinking about bringing cruise ship passengers to Hue City, it is crucial to create attractive products for them right in the area near Chan May Port. These will not only keep them staying in Hue, but also serve a significant number of passengers staying at the port.
A few years ago, a series of new products to attract tourists in general, and cruise ship passengers in particular, were deployed by the tourism industry, such as the opening of Hue Imperial Citadel at night, or the organization of Hue Singing programs at Chan May port to serve passengers staying on the ship by a number of businesses. Businesses also proactively linked up and invested in new forms of transportation to increase service quality, … but customers were still very “picky” about choosing Hue as a destination. This is also a concern that needs to be researched.
Investing in finding solutions to attract customers
In recent years, local authorities, the tourism industry and related departments and branches have been proactive in solving the problem of attracting international cruise ship tourists. To serve the reception of cruise groups, Chan May Port has invested in and completed the construction of 3 wharves with a total length of 910m.
Of which, wharf No. 1 is 360m long, wharf number No. 2 is 280m long and wharf No. 3 is 270m long. The construction procedures of berths No. 4 and 5 of Chan May port, with a total length of 540m, are also being implemented. The project is expected to be completed and put into phase I operation in the first quarter of 2025.
Mr. Hoang Phuoc Nhat, Deputy Director of the Provincial Department of Tourism, said that Thua Thien Hue planned to welcome 30 cruise ships with nearly 48,000 passengers and nearly 19,000 crew members in 2024; in 2025, there would be 26 cruise ships with nearly 30,000 passengers and nearly 13,000 crew members; in 2026, 7 cruise ships with 18,000 passengers and 6,000 crew members would be welcomed. With the desire to attract tourists to choose Hue as a destination to experience and spend while traveling, it is necessary to invest in many aspects with flexible solutions.
According to Deputy Director Pham Van Thuy, the Provincial People's Committee and related agencies need to issue separate policies for developing cruise tourism, investing in a modern specialized seaport system, creating favorable conditions for entry and exit procedures, and improving the quality of human resources to serve cruise ship passengers, while at the same time, focusing on creating attractive and outstanding thematic products, exploiting the tourist market from Asia, with an emphasis on the markets of China, ASEAN, Japan, Korea, India, etc., and potential source markets such as North America and Europe.
An ultimate solution is to research tourist demand trends to create new, attractive, proactive products that meet the expectations and bring satisfaction to tourists. Besides, it is necessary to proactively develop new products for cruise ship passengers to use during the day, in which, entertainment and shopping are also common goals of Hue tourism, thereby heading towards turning Hue into a destination that is both strong in culture, and rich in entertainment and shopping services.
In promotional activities, the province needs to strengthen the promotion of Vietnamese cruise tourism; participate in international cruise tourism fairs; actively cooperate with countries in the ASEAN region to develop cruise tourism; host events related to cruise tourism; proactively coordinate and provide destination information with cruise lines operating regularly in the area; at the same time, strengthen the connection between port management units, tour operators, shipping lines, service providers, shopping centers, and amusement parks to increase attractiveness to tourists.