Vietnam could benefit from world-class festivals like Carnival Halong

May 08, 2019 | 17:54
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Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Oktoberfest in Munich, Cherry Blossom Festival 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. Vietnam could also transform its own rich cultural traditions into world-class festivals, similar to Carnival Halong.
vietnam could benefit from world class festivals like carnival halong
Carnival Halong made Halong city the place to go during the Vietnamese national holiday

Successful international formula

According to the Japan Tourism Agency in Vietnam, the number of Vietnamese tourists travelling to Japan has increased six-fold in the last five years. From 55,000 in 2012 to 308,900 in 2017, that is a yearly growth rate of 41.4 per cent. In the first three months of 2018, Japan welcomed 86,300 Vietnamese tourist arrivals, an increase of 16.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2017. This exceeded the number of visitors coming from European markets, such as England and France.

In fact, since 2016, Japan has been the leading overseas destination for Vietnamese tourists – so why do Vietnamese love Japan so much? Experts and tourism management authorities believe Japan’s natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, pleasant climate, and flourishing product industry all appeal to Vietnamese tourists. But they also say the country’s distinctive traditional festivals add tremendous appeal.

Through the year, scores of festivals are held in Japan. During Tet (Lunar New Year), visitors to Japan can experience O-Shogatsu (New Year Celebration) and have a chance to eat toshikoshi-soba (longevity noodles). Between the end of March to early May, Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing) Festival attracts millions of visitors from all around the world.

Aside from the national celebrations such as Tanabata (Star Festival) and Obon festival, Japan hosts thousands of local festivals each year, including summer festivals, autumn festivals, and agricultural festivals, all of which are accessible and inviting for visitors, who can savour a festive atmosphere, sampling traditional foods, playing traditional games, and watching cultural performances.

Cultural and traditional festivals play an integral role in making tourism destinations more appealing in the eyes of tourists, not just in Japan, but in many other Asian countries, and in the Americas and Europe as well. It is an effective way for the countries to promote their image and tourism brand. You might see cultural festivals as a "trump card" that gets destinations flashing on the world travel map.

vietnam could benefit from world class festivals like carnival halong
Thousands of Vietnamese performers appeared at Carnival Halong

Vietnam’s burgeoning festival scene

On the night of April 28, 2018, Sun Carnival Square in the centre of Bai Chay, Halong City, exploded with cheers and applause from thousands of people attending Carnival Halong 2018 – an epic show lasting for more than four hours and featuring thousands of local artists and many international performers. This cultural extravaganza, which fused traditional and contemporary art forms, concluded with a spectacular fireworks display and a memorable DJ show, thrilling a huge audience through the night.

Co-organised by Sun Group and Quang Ninh provincial authorities, this was the first-ever Carnival Halong, but it was clear from the reaction of the crowd that it has great potential to become a significant cultural event for the northeast of Vietnam – home to the UNESCO-protected heritage Halong Bay.

vietnam could benefit from world class festivals like carnival halong
International performers also took the stage at Carnival Halong

There is no denying the abundance of natural beauty found throughout Vietnam – Halong Bay is truly one of the world’s natural wonders. But Carnival Halong 2018 showcased how an innovative and exciting cultural event can add even more appeal to a destination, attracting many more visitors.

Industry observers believe the carnival greatly contributed to the impressive tourism growth that Quang Ninh achieved in the first half of 2018, when the coastal province welcomed 7.5 million visitors, an increase of 26 per cent, generating tourism revenue of over VND12 trillion ($521.7 million), up 31 per cent over the same period in 2017.

vietnam could benefit from world class festivals like carnival halong
Carnival Halong drew in a massive audience

Bouyed by the success, Sun Group and Quang Ninh authorities organised Carnival Halong to once again coincide with Reunification Day and National Labour Day, which this year meant a five-day holiday from April 27 to May 1, 2019.

During this time, Quang Ninh province welcomed 600,000 tourists, an increase of 18 per cent compared to the same period last year. For the second year running, Carnival Halong’s parade exploded with vibrant energy all along the streets by Bai Chay beach in Halong city.

vietnam could benefit from world class festivals like carnival halong
Fireworks will light up Danang's skies once again during DIFF 2019

Lighting up Central Vietnam

As the economic and tourism capital of Central Vietnam, Danang has greatly benefitted from the hugely successful fireworks festival, which was first held as a two-night fireworks contest in 2008. Over the years, the event has grown into a much longer festival and has been organised by Sun Group since 2017. The festival, which has been growing in stature for over a decade, will run for five weeks in 2019, making the city a more vibrant, dynamic destination for visitors.

According to Tran Chi Cuong, deputy director of the Danang Department of Tourism: “During the two months when Danang International Fireworks Festival (DIFF) 2018 was being held, the number of tourist arrivals to Danang reached 1,581,558, an increase of 25.54 per cent compared to the same period in 2017. Because of the considerable increase in the number of tourists, accommodation occupancy achieved 70-90 per cent during the festival in spite of a rise of 7,355 rooms compared to the same period in 2017.”

With the aim of making DIFF a world-class festival, Sun Group has spearheaded product development in association with private enterprises and local authorities. As a result, the fireworks displays have become more and more spectacular. With eight of the world’s best pyrotechnics teams joined by thousands of artists, dancers, and performers, and many more cultural events – street carnivals, food festivals, and more – held throughout the city, the festival continues to wow audiences each year, showcasing Danang and attracting more visitors to Central Vietnam.

vietnam could benefit from world class festivals like carnival halong
A street carnival during Danang International Fireworks Festival

According to one local tourism insider, “Since Sun Group first launched the fireworks festival, DIFF has steadily matured into a really spectacular city-wide festival that creates a huge buzz that not only generates tremendous revenue for the city but I believe also inspires everyone to make Danang an even more vibrant, attractive destination. Each festival makes a stronger impression than the last.”

The long-term success of DIFF, now in its second decade, and the recent splash made by Carnival Halong both highlight how Vietnam can prosper from well-developed cultural festivals. To develop these festivals requires a shared vision from all associated stakeholders as well as major strategic investment. However, it is clear that there are great rewards to reap when such a spectacular event puts a destination on the world tourism map.

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