Advantages for development
Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of advantages to develop waterway tourism thanks to its many rivers and canals with scenic views. Waterway tours are one of the city’s new tourism products that are expected to provide attractive experiences to visitors.
Bach Dang Wharf is located in the center and the Nhieu Loc Thi Nghe Canal also passes through the center.
The city’s rivers are also a way for tourists to travel to Mekong Delta provinces and neighbouring countries like Thailand and Cambodia.
|Sai Gon River (Photo: CPV)
The municipal People’s Committee has issued a plan for the development of waterway tourism products in the 2023-2025 period.
According to the plan, the city will launch waterway tourism products in all inland routes on all rivers in the city, and inter-provincial routes connecting with the neighbouring provinces of Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Tien Giang, Long An and Ben Tre.
By 2025, the city aims to develop at least 10 waterway tours and waterway tour programs linking seaports and river routes.
The city is striving to welcome about 500,000 visitors a year to waterway tourism programmes in the 2023-2024 period. This number is expected to increase by 10 percent in the following years.
The number of international cruise ship tourists arriving in the city will be 100,000 in 2023 and 2024, and rise 12-15 percent in the following years.
The HCMC People’s Committee has also asked relevant agencies to focus on improving the quality of waterway tourism products, including river tours.
It is striving to have hundreds of water transport craft by 2025, including boats, ships, cruise ships and others.
It will improve voice-over translation systems to provide tourists with information about waterway tourism routes, and identify the historical and cultural values of rivers and canals across the city.
The municipal administration has urged relevant units to use geographic information system (GIS) technology for building detailed maps of waterway tourism routes and destinations on the routes.
It will build more wharves and launch new waterway tourism products and programs, boost cruise tourism, and develop tourism and entertainment services along the river bank and on river cruise ships.
Waterway tourism also helps tourists to sightsee and understand more about Vietnamese culture, history and eco-systems.
The city also organized the first river festival on August 4 to 6 with a series of cultural and entertainment activities for locals and tourists. The festival aimed to preserve and promote the city’s culture and history as a culturally rich riverside urban area, and make use of its waterways to boost the economy and tourism.
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 across the Saigon River system (Nha Be, Soai Rap, Long Tau) with linkages to 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. 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 and public restrooms to serve tourists, she said.
She added that for cruise tourism, the city needs to have a policy on allowing large ships to dock in ports in the city centre to effectively exploit Saigon port.
|Bac Dang Wharf (Photo: CPV)
Moreover, the city calls on businesses to invest in developing passenger transport routes between the city and Con Dao (an island of Ba Ria-Vung Tau province) to promote the development of inland waterway transport and coastal transport.
However, waterway tourism still faces some challenges, including the lack of a proper and synchronized structure, making it hard for water tourism to compete with other modes.
Travel agencies have been struggling to get customers for waterway tourism, besides river pollution is a concern for this form of travel.
Facilities and entertainment activities along rivers are not as good as those in France or China, and strategic planning and renovation are critical to making river tours more attractive.
Waterway tours require diverse experiences but operators only provide short tours and dining experiences on ships, which were hardly sufficient.
According to preliminary statistics of the tourism department, 123 waterway vessels are operating, including 43 restaurant boats, accommodation ships, yachts and 80 motorboats and small wooden boats./.