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A faint knock on the tourism door
The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  Apr 2, 2018,23:18 (GMT+7)

A faint knock on the tourism door

The Saigon Times Daily

In HCMC, typical landmarks of great historical and cultural value, needless to say, are often seen as hotspots for visitors, such as the Central Post Office, the Reunification Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral and Ben Thanh Market. Those sightseeing spots, however, are quite few, and can hardly quench the thirst of visitors wanting to get a deeper insight into the city’s history of development. Visitors and travel firms alike wish to have more.

In a gesture of building hope for the tourism industry, HCMC chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong has recently hinted at the possibility of opening the City Hall to the public.

In appraising the zoning and architecture plan of scale 1/500 for the City Hall conducted by the international consultant Gensler, chairman Phong suggested last week that in the project to upgrade the City Hall, the area facing Le Thanh Ton Street should be arranged as the workplace for the city government’s standing members only. Meanwhile, a section will be set aside to display exhibits of high historical value dating back to important epochs of the building, according to Tuoi Tre. More importantly, relevant agencies should consider solutions to allow for the public and tourists to visit the City Hall at certain hours.

Such a suggestion is a positive signal for the city’s tourism industry, which despite strong growth over the years has been seen as lacking in tourism products with few places of interest. In places around the world, city halls or even presidential palaces like the White House stateside and the Blue House in South Korea are popular venues for curious tourists.

However, Phong’s tentative suggestion may usher in a new trend to open more landmarks in the city to the public and enrich tourism products.

In the city, there are over 50 national-level heritage sites and over 100 city-level heritage venues, many of which are closed to the public simply because they are the workplaces of State agencies or socio-political organizations. For example, the headquarters of District 1 government is among the oldest buildings in the city, developed at the same time as the Central Post Office, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the City Hall, and bears similar architectural features. This building used to be a venue of recreational services for the French during their early days in Saigon. Or the city’s Customs Department is also one of the oldest buildings in the city, and used to be the Metropolitan Hotel since its first days in the late 19th century. That is not to mention numerous schools aged over 100 years like Marie Curie and Le Hong Phong high schools.

The possibility of opening the City Hall to the public can be likened to a faint knock on the tourism door, and it should be time now for experts and policymakers to discuss pros and cons of how to make the most of such historical landmarks for the hospitality industry, which is regarded as a spearhead sector for economic development. The question is whether such a faint knock is heard.

The Saigon Times Daily

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