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After a long lull due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ho Chi Minh City is seeing an increase in demand for MICE (meeting, incentive, convention, exhibition) tourism from both Vietnamese and foreign customers.

As Vietnam’s economic hub, the Ho Chi Minh demand for MICE tourism is high. The city also has some of the best infrastructures in Vietnam to host exhibitions and conventions. As an example, the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center (SECC) managed by Saigontourist Group, a leading incoming tour operator, won the “Vietnam’s Best Convention Centre 2021” award at last year’s World MICE Awards.

With an eye on recovery, tour operator Vietravel Company says that since the start of the year it has recorded 300 MICE delegations with over 20,000 people. Saigontourist has organised MICE tours for 14,000 people in Ho Chi Minh City and surroundings.

“MICE businesses have boomed,” explains Hoang Thuy Linh, deputy director of marketing and IT at Saigontourist. “After the Lunar New Year holiday in February Saigontourist has organised big tours for businesses to hold review meetings and ceremonies for awarding employees. In March we had a record 750 delegates on the Da Nang-Hoi An tour.”

Vu Thi Thanh Hien, deputy director of the five-star Hotel Grand Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, said: “Our hotel has capitalised on this market. We will continue to improve services, products and accommodation. We also enhance marketing of the city as organisers.”

The city’s Department of Tourism took the closure of Vietnam‘s international borders during Covid-19 to organise training courses for tour guides, restaurants and hotels on food safety and hygiene and signed pacts with other sectors to better serve tourists.  

Working with the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam

The department has also signed agreements with the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) and Vietnam Airport Ground Services Co Ltd (VIAGS) for boosting tourism. The agreement will see a strong coordination between the department and EuroCham to promote MICE and cuisine tourism to the city in 2022-2024.

The awarded SECC- Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center-is a top venue in Ho Chi Minh City (Photo : Saigontourist Group)

They will strengthen market research and human resources training, and share experiences in tourism management and operation.

They will step up direct promotion to popularise the city among more European firms and citizens in the country and abroad. EuroCham Chairman Alain Cany said the tourism sector is recovering. The chamber of commerce appreciated Vietnam’s reopening to tourists and the return of the visa exemption for Europeans. Since April, travellers from nine Western European countries have been able to enter Vietnam without a visa for a stay not exceeding 2 weeks. This includes Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Outside Europe, citizens from 12 Asian countries as well as Belarus, Chile and Russia can enter Vietnam with no visa requirements.

EuroCham hopes to help the city strengthen its capacity to research, develop its website and train human resources, he added.

In 2022-27 the city and VIAGS will co-ordinate for market research and developing a tourism trademark for the city, thus attracting more MICE tourists.

Recovery on the way

Travel companies said the favourite destinations in the country for MICE tours are Phu Quoc Island and Da Nang, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Phan Thiet, Vung Tau, Sa Pa, and Dien Bien cities.

During the first five months of 2022,  Ho Chi Minh City welcomed a total of 8.97 million domestic visitors and 262,090 foreign arrivals, with total tourism revenue reaching US$1.691 million, an increase of 9.8% year-on-year.

In May alone, the former Saigon welcomed 147,362 foreign arrivals, showing the rapid recovery in tourism following the opening of Vietnam’s borders in April.