Cruise passengers to HCM City (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) – Vietnam’s sea tourism sector has reported annual growth of only 2 percent to 3 percent, while other Asian countries have witnessed robust growth in cruise tourism in recent years.

In 2018, Saigontourist Travel Service Co provided services to about 474,000 cruise travellers, up by 12 percent compared with 2017.

In the first two months of this year, the company welcomed big groups of cruise travelers including 3,500 Chinese visitors from Hong Kong who came on the World Dream Cruise Ship, and more than 11,500 travellers from Hong Kong, the US, UK and France on board cruise ships such as the Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Millennium and World Dream.

Saigontourist Travel Service Co took the cruise travellers to visit famous tourist sites across Vietnam.

According to the manager of a travel service company headquartered in HCM City, most cruise travelers are from middle-class families that have few occasions to spend their money on cruise ships. Each of them spends an average of 100 USD during their 10-hour trip ashore.

However, the souvenir shops and business centres at the places these cruise travelers visited were not attractive to them, the manager said.

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Authorities are concerned about the lack of wharves in Vietnam and HCM City in particular for cruise ships, which have to dock at cargo piers that serve cargo ships.

The country now has only one harbour for cruise ships, which was built and opened in the northern province of Quang Ninh in late 2018.

Ha Bich Lien, advisor at Royal Caribbean Cruises Tld, noted that HCM City is the major destination for cruise travelers to Vietnam, though cruise ships have to dock at Phu My Port in Ba Ria – Vung Tau province, which is busy receiving container ships.

In the first three months of the year, Phu My Port is expected to welcome 12 cruise trips, bringing in about 36,000 visitors.

Lien said the lack of ports for large ships to dock prevents more cruise passengers from coming to HCM City. The city has thus missed a chance to attract high-spending cruise passengers, mostly from Europe, who spend an average of 100 USD a day, she added.

The city’s authorities should quickly resolve this problem, she said.

According to a spokesman for the HCM City Department of Tourism, while awaiting construction of a port for cruise ships in the city, these ships will continue to dock at ports in Ba Ria – Vung Tau province. Passengers from the cruise ships are then transported to HCM City by bus.

With such services provided to cruise passengers, HCM City and Ba Ria – Vung Tau lose a lot of money because they are not earning big profits from these services, according to Phan Xuan Anh, an advisor from Tan Hong Travel Co.-VNS/VNA