HCM City (VNA) – The central city of Da Nang will become the first locality in Vietnam to allow international cruise ships to keep open their casinos and duty-free shops starting in mid-January.

Deputy Director of the city Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Tran Chi Cuong, said his department has consulted with city authorities and pored over the country's laws before making the decision.

"We have looked into all relevant regulations and found there are no provisions banning foreign ships from offering the services on board to their passengers while anchored in Vietnamese waters.

"Therefore, such services should be allowed for cruise tourists to help attract more international cruise ships to the country."

With tourist destinations in the country yet to provide such facilities, those on board cruise ships would help entertain cruise visitors, he added.

SuperStar Libra, operated by Star Cruises, is expected to become the first cruise ship to benefit from the city's move. Tourists aboard the vessel stay overnight in Da Nang rather than make a day trip.

For the past couple of years representatives of foreign cruise lines have been repeatedly asking the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, and provincial authorities to allow them to keep casinos, bars, and souvenir shops open on board their cruise ships.

The representatives said these are sorely needed since many passengers do not want to disembark and go on local tours. The services also provide an additional source of income for the cruise lines while local authorities do not need to worry about local residents getting on board to gamble.

Vietnamese nationals who are not passengers are not permitted to board the vessels or enter the casinos, they said.

In preparation for a plan to organise hundreds of cruise voyages to Vietnam in 2015-17, executives of Star Cruises have met officials of VNAT, Quang Ninh province, and Da Nang and sought sanction to keep the casinos and duty-free shops on board their vessels open.

But no other locality apart from Da Nang has agreed though.

Cuong said last year Da Nang welcomed around 1.27 million foreign visitors, with passengers arriving by international flights making up a majority of the number.

Da Nang saw more international services started last year from Japan, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, taking to 20 the number of scheduled and chartered international routes.

The department has high hopes that more international travellers will visit Da Nang this year, especially aboard cruise vessels.

"Star Cruises alone will bring to the city around 110 cruise ships this year with thousands of passengers and crew on board each," Cuong said.-VNA