A new expressway halving travel time between Hanoi and Halong Bay will lead to a surge in cruising and day trips to Halong Bay, industry experts predict.
The Ha Long-Hai Phong Expressway, which opened in September, runs from Hanoi through to Dinh Vu port in Hai Phong, reducing the journey between the Vietnamese capital and Halong Bay from about four hours to less than two-and-a-half hours.
Coupled with the opening of a new seaport dock in the area and the slated opening of Van Don International Airport in December, as well as the hosting of the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Halong Bay next January, visitor interest to the northern Quang Ninh province is set to grow.
Jeff Redl, managing director of Diethelm Travel Vietnam, expects this to spark a rise in demand for cruises, especially day trippers. He said leisure and business tourists as well as MICE groups enjoying a short stay in Hanoi may now consider a day cruise in Halong Bay.
Added Redl: “Due to the transfer time, we offered few day cruises from Hanoi in the past. By considerably reducing the time spent in a vehicle, we will be more confident at offering such a service.”
Armand Cheveux, Bhaya Group’s director of marketing, agreed the road upgrade will lead to an increase in cruising in Halong Bay, while stressing that it is vital that measures be taken to ensure this does not impact the environment.
He said: “The number of boats will have to increase to supply this increase in demand. This scenario would result in more pollution of the area. As the day boats are ageing, we expect that by the time a significant increase in passengers arrive, less old boats will be available and newer, more environmentally-conscious operated boats will cruise in Halong Bay.”
Pham Ha, CEO of Heritage Cruises, said: “Travellers can cruise longer in the Halong Bay region from the Cat Ba Archipelago to the ancient trading seaport Van Don in Bai Tu Long Bay. (Overall), travellers have more choices for cruising and there will be a boom in interest in Cat Ba Archipelago.”
But Pham also expressed concern over mass tourism in the future, adding that vital investment should be ploughed into creating new experiences in the area rather than “cable cars, ugly planning of Halong City and amusement parks that are packed in the summer with Vietnamese holidaymakers”.