Harnessing Untapped Potential of River Tourism in HCM City

9:52:35 AM | 3/5/2024

Nestled within the spirited lanes of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam lies a treasure trove awaiting discovery: an intricate network of rivers and waterways extending an irresistible invitation for exploration.

Saigon Waterbus could be a promising addition to the city's transportation and tourism 

The Saigon River, a sinuous ribbon weaving through the city's core, sets the stage for an enchanting river tourism experience. Along its banks, the city unfurls a spectrum of river-centric activities, ranging from leisurely cruises to the bustling theater of floating markets and the allure of waterside dining experiences.

Dr. Jackie Ong, RMIT Senior Program Manager of the Tourism and Hospitality Management program, said: “This rich tapestry of experiences offers visitors a unique prism, allowing them a fleeting escape from the urban clamor and a glimpse into a tranquil facet of the city's character that often remains concealed.”

“It encapsulates the essence of contemporary travel desires, where voyagers yearn for authentic connections and immersive encounters. Seamlessly embracing this evolving trend, river tourism beckons adventurers to plunge into the city's historical layers, cultural intricacies, architectural splendors, and everyday life.”

While Ho Chi Minh City has identified this potential, it has yet to seize it fully.

Dr. Daisy Kanagasapapathy, RMIT Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management, said strengthening infrastructure, amplifying promotional initiatives, and diversifying river experiences could significantly support the sector's expansion.

Challenges cast shadows over the vibrancy of the city's river tourism prospects. Foremost among them is the call for heightened awareness.

“The city's iconic historical landmarks are often in the spotlight, putting its intricate waterways in the background.

“Concerns about water quality and sanitation, and the safety of river activities ripple through the minds of potential tourists. Meanwhile, the narrow thoroughfares hinder access to riverside attractions,” said Dr. Kanagasapapathy.

Saigon Waterbus could be a promising addition to the city's transportation and tourism. Operating along the Saigon River, the waterbus offers a new and picturesque lens through which to experience the urban tapestry.

However, this venture has its challenges.

“The waterbus system has grappled with issues that obscure its full potential, hindering a seamless integration into the tourism landscape. Tackling these challenges necessitates efforts by local authorities and tourism operators. Communication emerges as a pivotal instrument – crafting a narrative that artfully underscores the allure of river experiences while empathetically addressing concerns is paramount in captivating the intrigue of potential tourists,” said Dr. Kanagasapapathy.

Dr. Kanagasapapathy also analyzed the triumphs of Thailand's river tourism.

“Thailand's success resides in its masterful fusion of culture and nature. Floating markets and riverside temples are a testament to the country's prowess in intertwining its rich cultural heritage with the tapestry of natural beauty, crafting an enchanting symphony that resonates with visitors,” she said.

Additionally, infrastructure and accessibility are cornerstones of Thailand's river tourism accomplishments. According to Dr. Kanagasapapathy, the strategic investment in modern infrastructure ensures convenient access to river attractions, while well-maintained facilities and boats envelop tourists in a cocoon of comfort, elevating their overall satisfaction.

“Community engagement assumes a pivotal role in the success of Thailand's river tourism. A symphony of authenticity unfurls as local communities become integral to the narrative, reaping benefits that enrich their lives while nurturing the allure for visitors,” said Dr. Kanagasapapathy.

Ho Chi Minh City has the potential to orchestrate a symphony of sustainable and captivating river tourism experiences

Effective promotion and marketing are the crescendo of Thailand's river tourism symphony, captivating a global audience and beckoning travelers searching for distinctive and unforgettable escapades.

Drawing inspiration from Thailand's success, Dr. Kanagasapapathy presented various strategies for Ho Chi Minh City to unleash its potential in river tourism.

The first strategy emphasizes the integration of history, culture and nature into river tourism experiences. This approach weaves a rich tapestry that offers a deeply enriching experience for tourists.

The second strategy underscores the importance of modern and accessible infrastructure. This not only facilitates seamless interactions with the city’s waterways but also involves local communities, fostering authenticity and sustaining growth.

The third strategy revolves around a comprehensive global marketing strategy. Serving as a dynamic catalyst, it amplifies the appeal of river tourism to both domestic and international tourists. Importantly, this initiative aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 14: Life Below Water and 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Dr. Kanagasapapathy elucidated with an instance, underscoring the Saigon Waterbus as a significant recipient of these all-encompassing methodologies. By implementing efficacious promotional tactics, optimizing operational processes, and demonstrating an unyielding dedication to aligning with the anticipations of both indigenous inhabitants and international visitors, the waterbus has the potential to be an esteemed component of Ho Chi Minh City’s fluvial tourism landscape.”

Despite challenges and awareness gaps, the city has the power to transmute river tourism into a captivating attraction that enriches the collective visitor experience. This aligns with Dr. Ong’s perspective: “River tourism presents an alternate viewpoint that starkly contrasts the city's bustling streets, inviting tourists to indulge in an authenticity that resonates profoundly.”

 “Much like the Saigon River's meandering journey through the city, river tourism possesses the potential to weave a fresh narrative of exploration, authenticity and wonder within the heart of this bustling metropolis. Through the wisdom of Thailand's successes, Ho Chi Minh City opens up the true potential of its waterways, inviting travelers to embark on a captivating voyage that unravels the city's history, culture, and natural allure,” concluded Dr. Kanagasapapathy.

Source: Vietnam Business Forum