It has a few names: “The City of Eternal Spring” or “Le Petit Paris” are among them.
The city reifies the second with a scaled-down version of the Eiffel Tower in the city centre overlooking Xuan Huong Lake.
Image source: touristcompanies.com
We’re talking about south central Vietnam’s oasis Da Lat, of course.
With more than 350,000 residents welcoming tourists inside a mountain city with strict European inflections in its architecture, it’s enjoyed a coveted place among Vietnam’s tourists since the nation’s colonial rulers first used it as their private getaway. At the heyday of French rule, the 1,500-metre-high retreat was the place to be for society’s elite.
A century later, much of that charm lives within the city still, but tourism professionals working within the city argued that Da Lat would benefit from an update to its approach in courting and keeping visitor loyalty in growing this market.
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Nguyen Thi Hoan Minh, a salesperson with Ana Mandara Villas Dalat, said Da Lat’s cool weather have made it a consistent attraction for tourists seeking outdoor activities, including hiking and biking tours. The area’s topographical diversity make it well suited for creating a broad range of tour packages that centre on its surrounding natural beauty.
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The resort continues to be popular with family-centered tourists, Minh said, noting the high percentage of honeymooners and families that come to the resort. The resort as well as Da Lat as a whole are popular with golfers.
But Minh said the destination’s “second place” status continues to be a hamper on its ability to grow.
Take for example the city’s night market. In the absence of stronger leadership, sellers and vendors at the night market are largely uncoordinated and cannot therefore establish a common pricing scheme. This makes it harder for, among other coordinated market efforts, to raise the cost of under-priced goods, she noted.
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In this power vacuum, Minh added that Da Lat’s historic assets are being undersold to prospective tourists. That’s not the case with better branded destinations like Hoi An and Sapa.
She noted that its distance from Ho Chi Minh City is another sticking point for would-be tourists. Minh said the number of flights from Saigon needs to be expanded for few are often willing to make the sojourn by bus or car.
Taking a bike in to Da Lat may be all the more deterred by the fact that the city lacks traffic lights and cross-streets at many of its intersections. Da Lat’s inner city traffic is mediated by roundabouts, which strain when traffic thickens.
Looking forward, Minh said the city’s tourism actors would benefit from more formal training in hospitality and marketing to enhance the city’s ability to connect with and serve visitors. Minh said the Da Lat of the future would surely have to reckon with the growing number of Chinese tourists coming to Vietnam.