Vietnam tourism brand could revel in world-class cultural festivals
Vietnam can give its flourishing tourism industry a further fillip by creating world-class festivals imbued with its rich cultural traditions.
The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Oktoberfest in Munich, Cherry Blossom season in Japan, King’s Day in Amsterdam, Songkran in Bangkok… It is no coincidence that many of the world’s most popular destinations are home to some of the best-loved festivals.
According to the Japan Tourism Agency in Vietnam, the number of Vietnamese travelling to Japan has increased six-fold in the last five years, from 55,000 in 2012 to 308,900 in 2017, representing 41.4 percent annual growth.
In the first three months of last year 86,300 Vietnamese visited Japan, which was higher than the number of visitors from European markets such as Britain and France.
In fact, since 2016 Japan has been a leading overseas destination for Vietnamese tourists. Why do Vietnamese love Japan so much? Experts and tourism authorities said Japan’s natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, pleasant climate, and flourish tourism product industry all appeal to Vietnamese tourists. But they also said the country’s distinctive traditional festivals add tremendous appeal.
Scores of festivals are held through the year all over Japan. During the Lunar New Year, tourists visiting Japan will experience O-Shogatsu (New Year Celebrations) and get the chance to eat toshikoshi soba (longevity noodles). Between the end of March and early May, the Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing) festival attracts millions of visitors from all over the world.
Besides national events such as Tanabata (Star Festival) and Obon, Japan also has thousands of local celebrations each year of summer festivals, autumn festivals and agricultural festivals, all of which are accessible and inviting to visitors, who can savor the festive atmosphere, sample traditional foods, play traditional games, and watch cultural performances.
Cultural and traditional festivals often play an integral role in making tourism destinations more appealing in the eyes of tourists, not only in Japan, but also in many other Asian countries and in the Americas and Europe. They thus help destinations flash on the world travel map.
Vietnam’s burgeoning festival scene
On the night of April 28, 2018, Sun Carnival Square in the center of Bai Chay, Ha Long town, exploded with cheers from thousands of people attending Carnival Ha Long. An epic show lasting more than four hours, it featured thousands of local artists and many international performers.
This cultural extravaganza, which fused traditional and contemporary art, concluded with a spectacular fireworks display and a memorable DJ show, thrilling a huge audience through the night.
Organised by Sun Group and Quang Ninh Province authorities, it was the first ever Halong Carnival, but it was clear from the reaction of the crowd that it had the potential to become a significant cultural event in northeastern Vietnam, which is home to the UNESCO heritage site Halong Bay.
There’s no denying the abundance of natural beauty throughout Vietnam: Halong Bay is truly one of the world’s natural wonders. But the Halong Carnival showcased how an innovative and exciting cultural event can add even more appeal to a destination, attracting many more visitors.
Industry observers believe the event contributed greatly to the impressive growth Quang Ninh tourism achieved in the first half of 2018, when the coastal province received 7.5 million visitors, an increase of 26 percent year-on-year, and generated tourism revenues of over VND12 trillion ($513 million), up 31 percent.
Buoyed by the success, Sun Group and Quang Ninh authorities organised Carnival Halong to once again coincide with Reunification Day (April 30) and Labor Day (May 1), which this year meant a five-day holiday.
During this period Quang Ninh welcomed 600,000 tourists, an increase of 18 percent compared to the same period last year. For the second year running the Carnival Halong parade exploded with energy on the streets along Bai Chay Beach.
Lighting up central Vietnam
As the economic and tourism hub of central Vietnam, Da Nang has greatly benefited from the hugely successful fireworks festival, which was first held as a two-night fireworks contest in 2008.
Over subsequent years it has grown into a much longer event, helping make the city a more vibrant, dynamic destination for visitors, and has been organized by Sun Group since 2017.
It will run for five weeks this year.
Tran Chi Cuong, deputy director of the city Department of Tourism, said: “During the two months the 2018 Danang International Fireworks Festival (DIFF) was celebrated the number of tourist arrivals reached 1.5 million, an increase of 25.5 percent year-on-year.
“Because of the considerable increase in the number of tourists, lodging occupancy rates were 70-90 percent though the number of rooms increased by 7,355 from the same period in 2017.”
With eight of the world’s best pyrotechnicians joined by thousands of artists, dancers and performers, and many cultural events like street carnivals and food festivals held throughout the city, the festival has truly become an extravaganza that wows audiences year after year, showcasing Da Nang and attracting more visitors to the central region.
The long-term success of DIFF, now in its second decade, and the recent splash made by the Halong Carnival show how Vietnam can prosper from well-developed cultural festivals.
To develop these festivals requires a shared vision on the part of all stakeholders and large strategic investments.
But it is clear there are great rewards waiting to be reaped when spectacular events such as these have their locations flashing on the world tourism map.