Tourism start-ups are doing their best to bring new products to Ho Chi Minh City’s growing tourism market, but these new ideas and their accompanying investments are proving no match for a lack of consumer interest.
Ho Chi Minh City’s tourism numbers are far from satisfactory, mostly due to the city’s inability to facilitate easy access to tourist sites.
The Trung An fruit garden in Cu Chi District sells entry tickets every year during fruit picking seasons, typically a four-month period starting in May.
The 40-hectare garden is home to a wide range of fruits, including mangosteen, rambutan, and guava.
A large canal passing through the plantation also adds to the land’s value.
Despite the canal, however, most visitors opt to visit Trung An by land.
Right now, about 40,000 tourists visit the garden each season, but that number could grow if tourism companies find ways to transport visitors to and from the site via the canal.
The canal connects to the Saigon River and can accommodate ships with a capacity of up to 500 metric tons
“We’ve been investing in ports for ships to visit the garden for over a year, but the results are not encouraging,” said Huynh Van Hue, head of the Trung An fruit garden.
Similar plans are in the works at the eco-resort Villa H2O in Hoc Mon District just outside Ho Chi Minh City.
Huynh The Dat, manager of the resort, recently submitted a request to the Ministry of Transport for permission to build a port to ease tourist access to the resort.
Dat emphasized the importance of Villa H2O’s location, especially considering the city’s plans to begin operating new river bus routes, one of which will pass by Villa H20 en route from Cu Chi District to Binh Duong Province.
“We will be an ideal stop on the route. That’s why we have invested heavily,” Dat explained.
According to Dat’s plan, VND1 billion (US$44,010) has already been earmarked for building the port while billions more will be invested in mud-bathing facilities, electric cars, and road upgrades.
According to Phan Yen Ly, head of international travel at Saigontourist, a tourism company headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, new forms of tourism like agritourism and river-based tourism contribute to the diversity of a tour.
However, firms are failing to tap the full potential of these unconventional offerings.
Nguyen Thi Lan, owner of the Long Phuoc garden in District 9, said that she is unable to cooperate with travel service companies because they charge waterway tourists 3-4 times more than tourists traveling by land.
Tourism companies say the extra fees are necessary to cover the expensive cost of traveling by boat.
According to Tran Viet Long from Viet Media Travel Joint Stock Company, Ho Chi Minh City needs time to develop its agritourism and create synergy between its different tourism products.
“We’re all developing separately and without a plan. That’s why we have yet to see specific benefits. We also need to encourage tourists to stay longer so that they can experience more during their trip,” Long said.