By Nguyen Trang – Translated by Kim Khanh
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Currently, about 54 flights carry 20,000 arrivals to Phu Quoc Island every day, according to the Department of Tourism of Kien Giang Province, which administers the island regarded as Vietnam’s beach paradise.
The number is forecast to increase to 80 flights on the back-to-back holidays of Reunification Day (April 30) and International Workers’ Day (May 1).
The figures are the result of not only the high demand of summer travel but also the opening of Vietnam’s first-ever ‘sleepless city’ on Phu Quoc — an example of the inevitable trend in the tourism industry, in which independent night-time entertainment complexes are established in big cities.
Turning point of entertainment travel
The nearly-1,000-hectare area of Phu Quoc United Center was bustling on Tuesday morning, welcoming huge throngs on crowded electric buses in preparation for its grand opening on Wednesday.
In the Grand World component, luxury shopping retailers were gearing up to complete the very last decorations and preparation for their mini music and art shows.
As soon as 9:00 am on Tuesday, hundreds of workers gathered to embellish small scenes with pavilions, craft villages, and traditional products to resemble the ancient Vietnamese spaces at the venue for ‘The Quintessence of Vietnam’ show, which employs the largest modern technology in Vietnam.
The show’s director Viet Tu told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the performers’ goal is to attract visitors to the festive activities in the entertainment city.
Besides, visitors from other resort complexes and couples who were taking their pre-wedding photos at Grand World also added up the hustle and bustle in the city.
Tran Gia Hung, a tourist from District 7, Ho Chi Minh City who had traveled to different Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Thailand, said that he was strongly impressed by the scenery and majesty of colorful buildings in Vietnam’s first ‘sleepless city.’
Hung was even prouder that the project is characterized by Vietnamese identity.
According to Nguyen Thi Thu Yen, an assistant at the Tous Les Temps café at Grand World, restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping stores there have generally finished their decorations and been ready for serving customers.
“The number of visitors to Grand World today is beyondall expectations,” Yen said.
“They spend time here from morning till night.
“Their main activities include sightseeing, coffee time, and shopping for souvenirs with families and friends.
“I think this area, once officially put into operation, will be crowded and bustling day and night.
“I can’t wait for it.”
|Visitors enjoy a thrill ride at VinWonders on Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang Province, Vietnam, April 20, 2021. Photo: T.T.D. / Tuoi Tre|
Phu Quoc waits to shine
According to Vu The Binh, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) tours play an important part in the domestic tourism sector as customers with the demand of relaxation often prefer this traveling model to exploration trips.
“This is clearly reflected in the ‘sleepless city’ model of Japan,” Binh said.
“Visitors there will be hooked on the variety of services, most of which are culinary and shopping.”
According to experts, during the development of a night-time economy, it is necessary for Vietnam to establish a system of night tourism products before building independent night-time entertainment complexes.
This is also Vietnam’s development orientation for the night-time economic model in the future.
In this fashion, Grand World with a combination of vivid activities at night and a series of exciting daytime festivals is expected to bring new vitality to the tourism economy of both Phu Quoc and Kien Giang.
A representative of the Kien Giang tourism department said that the number of flights from the country’s mainland to Phu Quoc would reach 80 on the holidays of Reunification Day and International Workers’ Day.
Meanwhile, 30 ferry trips can carry more than 4,000 passengers to the island ahead of the opening of the ‘sleepless city,’ according to Ho Thanh Sang, deputy director of the Kien Giang Port Authority.
Along with Da Lat, Vung Tau, Da Nang, and Nha Trang, Phu Quoc has become the most popular destination for Vietnamese tourists during the aforementioned four-day public holiday, according to a survey by the hotel reservation site Booking.com.
To ensure safety for tourists in the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ho Chi Minh City-based Cho Ray Hospital has sent 13 experienced doctors to Kien Giang to coordinate with the province in disease prevention and control.
In addition, Phu Quoc City leaders recently directly assigned missions to the navy, coast guards, and border guards who are responsible for preventing illegal entry from neighboring Cambodia, where the virus is taking its toll on local residents.
Thousands of shows a year
Another festive highlight that many visitors should look forward to is the 30-minute show ‘Colors of Venice’ held every evening at the Canal and Central Lake, featuring typical European designs, combined with romantic love stories and laser technology.
In addition to two main shows costing millions of dollars, the ‘sleepless city’ also offers at least 2,920 daytime mini shows, along with 365 evening performances, every year in various topics to bring visitors fresh feelings.
According to Bui Quoc Thai, director of the Kien Giang Department of Tourism, the models of endless entertainment and shopping will help introduce local agricultural products and specialties, especially through the Grand World night market’s 134 stalls, which are divided into four categories — cuisine, souvenirs, local specialties, and fashion items.
Tourists’ expectations for ‘sleepless city’
Duong Huan, a traveler from Ho Chi Minh City, showed his support for the development of a nigh-time economy, especially in big cities and tourism hot spots.
According to Huan, management agencies need to leverage each locality’s own identity more thoroughly to avoid boring repetition.
At the same time, more regulations on food safety and hygiene, pricing, security, and public order are needed for the healthy growth of business and preventing bad practices.
Localities with famous tourist destinations should improve public transport while ensuring security and public order for tourists, he said.
Besides, there should be suitable activities designed for different ages, especially for children, as many young families often find themselves in situations where they cannot entertain their kids during their trips.
According to Trang Ho, a visitor from Hanoi, she prefers taking part in outdoor activities at night during her vacations over more comfortable weather and less busy traffic.
However, tourists have few choices for night-time outdoor activities in Vietnamese cities, Ho complained.
“Nobody wants to stay in a hotel to watch TV during their trips,” Ho said.
“This point signals the business opportunity of the night-time economy.
“I think the ‘sleepless city’ should initially address this need and then other healthy entertainment services.”
DAKAR, April 21 – When Ghana received 50,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses from India last month, it hit a frustrating roadblock: it had not trained enough staff to distribute them.
The country was still rolling out shots received in late February from the global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX, and didn’t have the capacity to expand that operation, according to the head of Ghana’s immunisation programme.
Rather than going straight into the arms of health workers, the additional doses were put in cold storage in the capital Accra, Kwame Amponsa-Achiano told Reuters, adding that his team had received two days’ notice about the shipment.
“We were in the middle of the first campaign,” Amponsa-Achiano said. “How do you plan for 50,000 when you already are doing another campaign?”
The problems faced by Ghana, one of sub-Saharan Africa’s more economically developed nations, illustrate how a continent with experience in battling deadly infectious diseases has found itself ill-prepared to inoculate people against this pandemic.
Many African countries, already facing a shortage of affordable vaccines, are being stunned by the unprecedented scale of the distribution challenge when doses do arrive.
Authorities do not have enough equipment like masks and cotton wool because of funding shortfalls that could total billions of dollars, according to more than a dozen health experts and some internal government documents seen by Reuters.
They also lack sufficient personnel and training to distribute vaccines at short notice.
While Africa has thus far been relatively unscathed by COVID-19, some experts fear stuttering rollouts could draw out the outbreak in the region, potentially leading to more deaths and economically damaging restrictions in a continent that is already the poorest in the world.
Benjamin Schreiber, COVAX coordinator at the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, said logistical problems could mount in the coming weeks and months as countries tried to get vaccines to their general populations.
“As we start rolling out bigger quantities, we are going to start seeing more issues,” Schreiber said.
“The gaps in the healthcare systems will be the gaps that hinder the rollouts,” he added. “My worry is that we miss complete communities.”
Needed: millions of dollars
Ghana, where the novel coronavirus has infected more than 91,000 and killed over 750, is considered one of the better-prepared countries in Africa to carry out a mass vaccination drive because of its political stability and economic development.
The government aims to initially inoculate 17.6 million people – about half of its population – at a cost of $51.7 million, according to a national plan seen by Reuters.
It hopes to cover $7.9 million of that money with a World Bank loan but is short of $43.8 million, described as a “funding gap” in the internal government document.
Immunisation chief Amponsa-Achiano said he was not aware that the situation had changed since the plan was formulated in February.
The Ghanaian finance and health ministries did not respond to requests for comment.
Ghana was the first country in the world to receive a shipment from COVAX, taking delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured in India, on Feb. 24.
It started its vaccine drive on March 1, and had vaccinated 599,000 people by April 7.
While that vaccination rate is better than many of its African peers – Ivory Coast vaccinated just over 53,000 people between March 1 and April 6 – it is far behind the fastest countries globally. Britain, for example, administered doses to about 2 million people in roughly the first month of its drive.
Needed: fridges, cotton wool
The Ghanaian national plan shows how even relatively prosperous African nations lack vital equipment.
Money is needed across the board, including $1.5 million for 11 walk-in cold rooms and over 650 fridges to keep vaccines at between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
About $25 million is needed for supplies and waste management, including 33,600 boxes of face masks, 240,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, and nearly 55,000 rolls of cotton wool, the plan says. About $21 million is needed to train over 171,000 health workers and volunteers.
To add to Ghana’s challenge, its next COVAX shipments, expected in April and May, have been delayed until June, because India suspended major exports of vaccines manufactured there.
In its 2021 budget, outlined in mid-March, the Ghanaian government allotted 929,296,610 cedis ($160 million) for vaccine acquisition and deployment.
Amponsa-Achiano said, though, it was not clear how much would go towards distribution, or when the funds would materialise.
It is a common problem in Africa, UNICEF’s Schreiber said.
“The question is at what point will this funding hit the ground? Will it be in time?”
Congo Ebola outbreaks
Some African authorities are familiar with deadly contagions. Since 2018, Congo has contained four Ebola outbreaks with a vaccine which must be stored at between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius.
But the scale of the COVID-19 vaccination drive is new.
COVAX – the donor scheme co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – has delivered over 18 million doses to 41 African countries, according to Reuters data.
That’s the first wave in a drive expected to deliver 600 million doses to Africa this year, enough to vaccinate 20% of their populations. Russia, China and India have also donated some of their vaccines.
Funding is only one issue delaying vaccine rollouts.
Another is patchy record-keeping in many public health systems, which experts say make it difficult to identify people who should be prioritised because of age or co-morbidities.
Demand for shots is also weak in some countries due to mistrust of health authorities, lack of education about the vaccines and worries about potential side effects.
Spotty electricity and poor transport links in some places add to the challenge, while medical teams will have to negotiate safe passage across parts of Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Somalia and other places where insurgencies rage.
Vaccinating until end-2022?
John Nkengasong, who heads the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, says it could take until the end of 2022 to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.
Take the task facing Mali, an impoverished country fighting an Islamist insurgency. It needs $14.7 million to deploy vaccines, including for gasoline, vaccine storage and training, according to an internal government vaccination plan seen by Reuters.
The government will need funding support from the WHO, UNICEF, the GAVI vaccine alliance and the World Bank, the plan says. Those organisations are all looking to provide funding to African nations facing shortfalls.
South Sudan, still racked by violence after a civil war ended in 2018, has seen COVID-19 infect at least 10,300 people and kill more than 100.
It began distributing 132,000 vaccine doses from COVAX on April 7. However, authorities won’t start administering shots outside the capital Juba and its surrounding county until May at the earliest, said Kawa Tong, a member of a COVID-19 steering committee that advises the government.
“The key reason is the lack of funds for a rollout outside Juba. The transport of vaccines, training of health workers, community outreach – all these are tied to funding,” Tong told Reuters.
Adding to the difficulties, by May the rainy season will be well underway, cutting off transport links to large parts of the country, she said. The vast majority of the 11 million-strong population live outside Juba county.
Atem Riek Anyom, director general for primary healthcare at South Sudan’s health ministry, said the government had requested World Bank funding, adding that vaccines would soon be deployed across the country.
“There’s no challenge in regards to the vaccine rollout,” he added.
The World Bank, which has a $12 billion fund to help developing countries around the world buy and distribute vaccines, said it was reviewing requests from Mali and South Sudan.
The bank said it has approved $2 billion to 17 countries, including seven in Africa: Ethiopia, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Eswatini, Tunisia, Rwanda and Gambia.
Hoang Tung, CEO/founder of PizzaHome, shared with Hanoitimes his suggestions on how Hanoi and other provinces should fully tap into the potential of the night economy.
The Vietnamese government plans to develop the night economy in big cities as an initiative to develop tourism. How would you assess the potential of the night economy in Hanoi?
|Hoang Tung, CEO/Founder of PizzaHome|
As an insider in the tourism industry for ten years, I think it is essential for the government to make plans for the development of night economy activities.
Tourists want to spend money and maximize their experiences when arriving in foreign land. It is the utmost task of the travel industry to cater to this demand.
Most of the world’s major tourist towns have very exciting nightlife activities. Naturally, night activities take place in Vietnamese tourist cities too, but discreetly.
In my opinion, night economy activities should not be restricted because it caters to the legitimate demand of tourists. Therefore, the night industry should be regulated in a clever manner and strongly promoted so it could become an advantage of tourist towns in Vietnam.
What should Hanoi do to develop the night economy? From your perspective as an F&B insider, what the industry could contribute to boost the night economy?
Night economy activities in famous tourist cities abound. It can be activities at bars, dance floors, food streets, music, spa services, beauty or health rehabilitation to serve visitors after a tiring day, among others. Even flights and bus trips are arranged to arrive in the city at late hours so as to motivate tourists to take a night walk, sightseeing and dine.
In the F&B industry, the demand for dining at night is huge. I opened a restaurant targeting tourists knowing that there are a lot of flights arriving at late hours, sometimes between 21:00 and 23:00 and visitors need to eat after arriving at their hotel.
Or when tourist trains from Sapa arrive in Hanoi in the early morning, we also opened early at around 4:30 to serve them breakfast. Several lists of night eateries spread out online show how big the market is.
Therefore, the night economy needs to be regulated cleverly so that business people can formally expand their businesses.
How streets in Hanoi should be reserved exclusively for the night economy?
I think the night economy in Hanoi is fragmented. So, the area for nightlife activities should be planned in terms of population density and distance, they should not be too close to residential quarters.
For example, the Old Quarter area, the area around Hoan Kiem Lake, some areas in My Dinh and Long Bien districts are places where tourists would spend the night entertaining. These places should be away from residential areas.
What experiences should Hanoi learn from China, Taiwan, Japan ?
In tourist cities, I personally see them subdivided by:
Firstly, the model in concentrated areas such as China Town or India Town which are quite common. In Vietnam, streets where many South Korean or Japanese people are living are quite busy at night.
Secondly, regarding traditional areas, old quarters have historically been a gathering place, such as the Old Quarter in Hanoi or the Quarter of Foreigners in District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City.
Depending on the country’s culture, history and law, we can choose the direction of development that can stimulate the economic activities at night to create a good experience for domestic and international tourists as well as to boost economic development.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!