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Hanoi looks to abandon midnight curfew

Monday, August 15, 2016, 18:25 GMT+7

Hanoi is taking steps toward extending the mandatory closing time for service-oriented business, such as bars and nightclubs, past midnight, a move intended to appease Western visitors and stimulate the capital’s languid tourism sector.

Currently, all services in Hanoi must close before 12:00 am, too early for many foreign visitors, especially for European and North American tourists experiencing jet lag at night due to time differences.

The discussion on lifting the curfew was raised at a national tourism conference chaired by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Tuesday, in which many complained that early closing times are hurting an already stagnant sector.

Do Dinh Hong, director of the Hanoi Department of Tourism, claimed that early closing “leaves many visitors unsatisfied with Vietnam’s nightlife, especially young tourists” and “causes tourism in Hanoi and Vietnam to become monotonous and inert compared to other cities in the region, such as Bangkok, Singapore, Manila.”

Ogbu Benneth Chima, a Nigerian student studying at the British University Vietnam, seems to agree with Hong.

“Comparing the tourism sectors of Vietnam and Thailand, we see a large gap. Thailand has a return rate of 55 percent, while a beautiful and amazing country like Vietnam only has a return rate of 5 percent. There are many reasons for the gap, but the most important factor is Thailand’s reputation for colorful nightlife with many activities for international tourists. Improving nightlife will be a big step for tourism in Vietnam,” Ogbu said.

Some are skeptical of the decision, worrying that it might ruin Hanoi’s nighttime serenity.

“What makes Hanoi great is that it’s alive during the day with the sound of traffic and business, but calm at night. Hanoi seems to be evolving into a busy city, like Bangkok, and that’s not a good thing,” said Cameron Lucy, a British expat teaching English in the capital.

“The streets are filled with drunk tourists, creating opportunities for pickpocketing and prostitution,” Cameron recalled of his own unpleasant experiences in Thailand.

Hong is aware that extending the mandatory closing time past midnight might allow for an influx of undesirable activities, but he still believes that the decision will have an overall positive effect on tourism.

The specific details of the decision are still a work in progress, but Hong claims that the extension of closing time will be area- and location-specific in order to guarantee civility in Hanoi and avoid disruption to Hanoian daily life.

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