HCM City river tourism falls short of expectations hinh anh 1Foreign visitors go sightseeing on the ​Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal in HCM City (Source: VNA)
HCM City (VNA) – Despite HCM City’s dense network of rivers and canals, waterway tourism has not matched its potential, thus failing the city’s expectations it would become the main tourism product by 2020.

Phan Xuan Anh, Chairman of Du Ngoan Viet Company, one of the few travel firms to operate river tours to Can Gio and Cu Chi and of inner city canals, said conditions are not conducive to organising such tours.

The number of bridges with low clearance is among the biggest problems facing river tourism, he said.

On the route from Bach Dang Wharf to Cu Chi, for instance, boats have to travel under the Binh Loi Bridge, which has very low clearance, meaning large vessels cannot pass through.

Large vessels cannot reach Saigon Port because Phu My Bridge has a clearance of only 50 metres. Most ships bringing tourists to HCM City thus have to dock at Hiep Phuoc in Nha Be District or ports in Ba Ria – Vung Tau from where the tourists have to reach HCM City by road.

Sometimes for just a dinner his company has to bus hundreds of tourists from Hiep Phuoc to the downtown, Anh said.

Last year his company invested 10 billion VND on boat tours along the Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe Canal.

Though the canal has become clean now, traversing its 4.5km is a big challenge due to nine low-slung bridges, he said.

State-owned Saigontourist also started six river tours, but only three are still in operation.

Another tour, this one of Ben Nghe and Tau Hu canals along Vo Van Kiet Highway, has been suspended after failing to attract customers.

The city developed tours from HCM City to the Mekong Delta, Cambodia, and Dong Nai at a total cost of 1 trillion VND (45.4 million USD) for the Government and 10 trillion VND for the private sector, but several tours to Dong Nai and Binh Duong have been suspended and city tours are not as popular as expected.

Red tape is another hurdle, Anh said, explaining how boats travelling between HCM City and Ba Ria – Vung Tau have to seek permission from both authorities.

In HCM City, a boat needs to get permission for operating from Bach Dang Wharf, and if it wants to pick up tourists from upriver in District 2, more permissions have to be obtained, he said.

Huynh Van Son, a tourism expert, said HCM City is not ready yet for river tourism, pointing to unstable water environment condition, lack of interesting sights along its water bodies and insufficiency of piers.-VNA