|Saigon River has many advantages for waterway tourism development. (Photo: tienphong.vn)
Promoting river advantages
Last September, the southern city launched a tourism product called “Green History Tour” in District 3. The tour offers chances for tourists to explore the dynamic beauty of District 3 mixed with ancient features with many cultural and historical values preserved in the district by traveling on Nhieu Loc Canal.
Joining the tour, visitors are provided with knowledge about environmental protection and participate in activities of making lanterns with bamboo pulp paper and releasing fish to improve water sources, contributing to enhancing the rich ecosystem for the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal. In addition, visitors can participate in quizzes, answer multiple choice questions, and games about environmental protection to receive souvenirs.
Ms. Vu Thi Tuyet Nhung in Vo Thi Sau ward, District 3, said that boating on Nhieu Loc Canal gives tourists and local people a new look at the city, while also feeling the excitement of the city.
On November 9, Nhieu Loc Boat Company Limited welcomed more than 200 cruise passengers to visit and experience the product "A Glimpse of Saigon" on the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal with a 4.5 km long route, starting from the tourist wharf in District 1 and ending at the tourist wharf in District 3.
With a 60-minute journey, the tour is designed for visitors to admire nine bridges spanning the canal such as Hoang Hoa Tham Bridge, Tran Khanh Du Bridge, Kieu Bridge, and Cong Ly Bridge. The highlight of this tour is that visitors can experience releasing fish on the river to improve the water source, contributing to enhancing the rich ecosystem of the canal.
The most notable event that awakens the potential of river tourism is the first Ho Chi Minh City River Festival held last August. The festival is a series of unique cultural-entertainment-artistic activities taking place on the Saigon River, combined with experiential activities, shopping promotions, and demand stimulation for ticket prices cut for art performances.
According to Ms. Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, Director of the HCM City Department of Tourism, the festival has brought inspiration and interesting discoveries and experiences for local people and tourists about cultural identity and most special the city’s culture throughout periods.
Positioning “City by the River” brand
The history of the formation of Saigon-Chợ Lớn-Gia Dinh-Ho Chi Minh City over the past 300 years is significantly marked by rivers. The river not only embraces the city throughout its history but has formed the landmarks such as Ben Nghe, Bach Dang Wharf, and Binh Dong Wharf through commerce and trading activities.
Then, the rich canal system running into the heart of the city has contributed to creating the areas of Thu Duc, Hoc Mon, Go Vap, Nha Be and the peninsulas of Thu Thiem and Thanh Da. Saigon River and the canals flowing through it have connected the city with the Southeast provinces and the Mekong Delta region, creating great potential for the city in developing eco-tourism, inner-city waterways, as well as inter-provincial routes.
|River bus route from Bach Dang Wharf to Linh Dong Wharf in Thu Duc. (Photo: tphcm.chinhphu.vn)
At the recommendation of the city’s Department of Tourism, the municipal People's Committee has issued a plan on developing waterway tourism products in the city in the 2023-2025 period.
Under the city’s Tourism Development Strategy until 2030, waterway tourism products are identified as one of tourism products that make a difference for the city, satisfying international and domestic tourists’ needs for exploring cultural values.
The city has opened many waterway routes in the inner city, facilitating both passenger transportation and river tourism.
According to preliminary statistics of the tourism department, 123 waterway vessels are operating including 43 restaurant boats, accommodation ships, yachts and 80 canoes and small wooden boats.
In 2018, the city served 845,400 waterway tourists including 805,400 on river tours and 40,000 on sea tours. The figure in 2019 was 786,700, with 745,500 on river tours and 41,200 on sea tours.
To date, over 100 enterprises in the city are offering 150 waterway tours which are more and more diversified.
Mr. Nguyen Minh Man, Director of Communications and Marketing of TSTtourist said: In recent years, the company has exploited tours to Thu Duc city with tourism product “City by the Green River”. With this tour, visitors can experience traveling on the Saigon River, discovering the beauty on both sides of the river.
“Domestic and foreign tourists love to explore new things of the city by waterway combined with road. Therefore, this product is always chosen by tourists and we will continue to operate it during the upcoming Lunar New Year 2024,” Man said.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Vuong, Executive Manager of Nhieu Loc Boat Company Limited, said: Tourism products on the canal are competitive with many other tourist destinations which are included in tours to HCM City.
Currently, international visitors account for more than 50% of the company's visitors. In the near future, the company will welcome more foreign delegations to experience and use services at the wharf.
Deputy Director of the Department of Tourism Bui Thi Ngoc Hieu said that by 2025, the city's tourism industry aims to offer waterway tourism services on all Saigon River system (Nha Be, Soai Rap, Long Tau) with linkages to those in neighbouring localities of Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Tien Giang, Long An and Ben Tre, and create more tours connecting seaports with river routes.
The city looks to turn waterway tourism into a distinctive tourism product by 2030.
Hieu said that to achieve the goal, the city needs qualified wharves and ports to serve tourism. It also needs mechanisms and policies to attract businesses to invest in facilities like wharves, waiting areas, or public restrooms to serve tourists./.