After a months-long period of ‘hibernation’ caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of market-goers at Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City has bounced back, while the market is receiving more international tourists, helping revive its business operations.
Over the past few days, mainly on weekends, stalls selling fruits, jams, and food have been attracting crowds, including tourists coming from the northern region and foreign visitors.
Carefully inspecting and buying products at confectionery and souvenir kiosks, Michele and his wife, who are Italians, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the couple have stayed in Ho Chi Minh City for over ten days, and will remain in the city for some extra days to take tours and handle personal work.
The couple will also return to Ben Thanh Market.
|Stalls that sell food, fruits, and confectionery at Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City get crowded again. This photo shows a group of South Korean tourists checking dried fruits and products at the market on April 24, 2022. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
While enthusiastically introducing her items to South Korean customers and busily packaging fresh and dried fruits, Nguyen Thi Mo, owner of a stall at Ben Thanh Market, said that she reopened the stall in November last year, but the number of customers has only jumped over the past two months.
On weekends, many visitors from the northern region and international tourists from Asian countries such as India and South Korea are visiting the market.
Most of the stalls selling fresh and dried fruits and jams have resumed and are open from morning till night.
The peak summer travel season and Reunification Day (April 30) will help ramp up the number of customers and travelers to the market in the coming time, said Mo.
|Ben Thanh Market has seen a surge in tourists from Hanoi over the past one or two months. The picture shows a group of Hanoians buying fruits at the market last week to give them to their relatives and friends. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
Similarly, some owners of stalls selling dried items and confectionery said that from last month onward, the number of international travelers to the market has soared 30-40 percent compared to the previous months, while arrivals from Hanoi have increased significantly.
These tourists are visiting the market mainly on weekends, so these days are witnessing sales double or triple a normal day.
Le Hong Loan, owner of a gift shop, said that during the pandemic striking the city for over two years and six months, business at the market came to a complete standstill.
However, at this time, many vendors have resumed operation and expect to earn a stable income as more visitors are returning.
In contrast, despite a surge in tourist arrivals, several shops providing clothes, fabric, and handicrafts have seen revenues falling short of expectations, while some have even shut down.
|After several days of staying in Ho Chi Minh City, Michele and his wife, who are Italian nationals, come to Ben Thanh Market to buy numerous souvenirs. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
Vo Thi Ngoc Thu, owner of a fashion shop, said that the consumption of clothes has doubled from the end of last year, but has risen only 25 percent against that seen before the pandemic because domestic customers have mainly bought essential products such as dried food and fruits to give their relatives and friends when returning to their hometowns.
Meanwhile, garments, textiles, and clothes have been chiefly selected by Southeast Asian tourists, but the number of these visitors remains low.
“Over 85 percent of buyers are tourists," Thu said.
"As such, we hope that the government will ease entry rules as soon as possible and the tourism authority will launch many promotion programs to attract holidaymakers, especially foreign tourist groups with a high demand for shopping.
“If the number of foreign visitors to the market climbs back 60 percent to 70 percent from now until the end of the year, business operations here will turn healthy."
Ngo Van Ha, head of the Ben Thanh Market management board, told Tuoi Tre that the number of operational stalls is around 700 to 800, making up nearly 60 percent of the total, the highest number over the past two years.
|The kiosks of fruits and jams are often attractive to visitors to Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
“The market is speeding up the cooperation with grassroots-level authorities and travel firms to multiply tourist arrivals, apart from renewing marketing strategies, including encouraging vendors to wear 'ao dai,' Vietnam's traditional long dress, and advertising Ben Thanh Market on various tourism platforms,” Ha added.
Many vendors at wholesale and large-scale markets for tourism in Ho Chi Minh City such as Binh Tay in District 6 and Tan Binh in District 1 said that the number of market-goers was much lower than before the coronavirus pandemic, but has heralded a surge over the past month.
The rising number of tourists has driven up the sale of goods.
|The majority of stalls selling food, dried fruits, and confectionery have reopened at Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
|Dried seafood, cashew nuts, and lotus seeds are popular items bought by domestic and international tourists at Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
|Handicrafts and souvenirs, despite seeing weaker consumption, gradually regain their popularity, thanks to the soaring number of foreign visitors to Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
|Food stalls become busier at Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. The photo shows a group of Hanoians excitedly trying rice noodle soup at an eatery at the market. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
|Le Hong Loan, owner of a souvenir shop, said that she had yet to dare to purchase new items for selling as she had to handle inventories and calibrate the consumption. Loan expects to see a surge of 40-50 percent in the consumption in the coming months after Vietnam fully reopened its doors to the world in mid-March 2022. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre
|Though Ben Thanh Market becomes more bustling, multiple stalls of fabric, fashion, and handicrafts and kiosks deep inside the market are still closed or display for-rent signs due to limited buyers. Photo: N.Tri / Tuoi Tre