Sleepless in HCM City: a tourism initiative


Update: March, 20/2017 – 09:00

More night entertainment activities, festivals, and large-scale shopping centres are planned to make HCM City “a city that never sleeps.” — VNA/VNS Photo An Hiếu

HCM CITY — New York, famously known as the “city that never sleeps,” will soon be joined by HCM City, which is aspiring to that status in an effort to step up its tourism game.

The city, formerly known as Sài Gòn and the “Pearl of the Orient” in the early twentieth century, receives an average of 400,000 foreign tourists each month, generating revenues of thousands of billions of đồng, but some experts say it lacks night attractions that meet the demands of tourists looking to explore the city’s night life.

Lã Quốc Khánh, deputy director of the National Department of Tourism, said his office has found a real need among tourists to stay up late and explore the local night life.

“Some 30-40 per cent of national and international tourists want to go out after midnight, as well as 60-70 per cent of local citizens,” he told the Tuổi Trẻ newspaper, adding that the majority of foreign tourists typically suffer jet lag due to time differences and can only fall asleep after 2-3am.

“Only some 10 per cent of guests at motels in central areas of the city get back before midnight, most of them are elderly,” he said.

To turn tourism into a spearhead economy for city, a conference on developing the industry was held recently by the HCM City Party Committee. Attending the meeting were senior city officials, representatives of travel agencies and tourism experts.

Võ Anh Tài, deputy director of tour operator Saigontourist, said the city’s lack of night tourist attractions was one of the factors weighing the industry down.

“Even though we provide a variety of sightseeing tours during the day, the city’s tourism scene at night is considered by many tourists to be rather monotonous and lacking cultural authenticity,” he said.

“We need to give tourists the impression that HCM City is a city that never sleeps by developing more night entertainment activities, festivals, large-scale shopping centres, and holding at least one major event per month,” he said.

Despite being the few places in the city where foreign tourists can hang out at night, there are curfews on the  majority of restaurants and clubs, including the Bùi Viện ’Western Street,’ said Võ Trần Quốc Thắng, a city resident.

“After leaving the restaurants at 11pm, my foreign friends and I like having a second round at the Western Street, but establishments on the street are often not allowed to open that late,” he said.

“There was a time when we were watching a street performance, the artists had to get up and run in the middle of the show, because they were shooed away by the city’s guards,” he added. “It wasn’t a pleasant sight at all.”

In contrast to the locals’ eagerness to make HCM City more entertaining, some foreign tourists are fine with what it can offer at the moment.

Anthony Griffiths, a Canadian tourist who visited the city last year, said he enjoyed the local food, clubs, beer, markets.

“Great street food. Not many, but nice clubs,” he said.

“I don’t think the city – and Việt Nam in general – needs to develop more tourist attractions, because it will lose its identity when it is commercialised,” he said.

Management challenges

How to manage the ‘never sleep’ areas is a major concern for both authorities and citizens.

Phan Thành Đạt, an illustrator living in the city, supports the idea, but said that the parts that ‘never sleep’ should be managed carefully so that they would not affect the residential areas.

“I’m living next to a commercial complex consisting of several restaurants, pubs and karaoke parlours, which constantly causes traffic congestion and exhausts neighbours with noise,” he said.

“I’m really concerned about where the authorities are planning to develop these ‘never sleep’ areas,” he said.

Khánh said these areas would not be limited to downtown District 1 alone.

The ‘Western Street’ model on Bùi Viện Street can be replicated on Hai Bà Trưng Street (also in District 1) and Châu Văn Liêm Street in District 5, he said.

Businesses operating on these streets would have to register with the city (to remain open throughout the night), he added.

The city’s regulations would need to be changed in order for the idea to be effective, while still ensuring urban order, he added.

He proposed that major restaurants and hotels of 3-5 star status should be allowed to operate after midnight upon request. “Many of them have real need to do so, but aren’t allowed by current regulations,”  he said.

The process of actualising the idea must be planned carefully without rush, he added.

The areas identified would have to meet certain standards, and new regulations on types of services that businesses can offer in these areas must be regulated carefully, Khánh said. — VNS

This entry was posted in Du lịch - Tourism, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and tagged , , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development ( I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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