Starting a career in tourism since the 90s, Mr. Nguyen Le Vinh Lynh, Director of Vietnam Sightseeing Joint Stock Company (Vietnam Sightseeing) – Ho Chi Minh City branch, has witnessed many changes and accompanied the development of Vietnam’s tourism industry. With a dare-to-do mindset and always wanting to create the most engaging experiences for visitors, Mr. Lynh and his team have recently successfully implemented a double-decker sightseeing bus model in Vietnam.
Let’s chat with him to better understand his business values and vision when developing this new type of experience in Vietnam.
I have been with Vietnam Tourism company since 2001 and our company’s strength is exploiting the inbound market to Vietnam, especially countries in Europe such as France, Germany, and Italy. Every year, we also visit these countries to promote the company brand and have the opportunity to experience double-decker buses. It was also from those experiences that the idea of bringing this model to Vietnam was rekindled because I found the model very good and appropriate. However, to establish such a fleet of vehicles, it is necessary to carefully prepare and learn over many years.
In Asia, Singapore is a very small country, but they have opened 4-5 fleets of such sightseeing buses to serve tourists visiting the lion island nation. This is also a motivation for us so that by 2018, the company’s leadership has come together and kicked off the idea of this model in Vietnam. Actually, at present, we are not the only company in Vietnam doing this business, but each party has its own way of operating and products. And I believe that in the market, it is the same for any product, the more suppliers appear, the more beneficial it will be for customers, they will have more choices in terms of quality, experience and price.
In Vietnam, cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City do not have many in-destination experiences, especially in the evening. A typical example is that at our stations these days, it is easy to see tourists who go for the 3rd and 4th time in the evening because they don’t know what to do after going out for dinner or take photos in some famous attractions. Therefore, not only this type of double-decker bus, but also many other types of experiences, will also have the great potential in the future to meet the needs of visitors, especially when international tourism is also starting to return. Understanding this demand, we are also aiming to create more combined tours to give visitors a richer experience. Besides taking the bus, there will be music performances or walking tours at the drop off point. When doing tourism, we will have to constantly innovate and create interesting experiences.
For Vietnamese domestic visitors, when we first introduced this type of experience, it was quite strange, but when they really experienced it, they became very excited. Right from the launch, I determined that it would take 6-9 months for customers to get used to, but unexpectedly when the bus came out, the customer’s reaction was very positive. Information spreads very quickly, in addition to press agencies and media, there are many sharings and feedbacks from customers who have real experienced. When visitors experience the real thing and they say something or share about it, it will be more believable than self-introduction or advertising. Especially recently in Ho Chi Minh City, there have been a very large number of visitors at night, and after each trip, just looking at the attitude and emotions of the guests getting off the bus, we can know if they are satisfied or not. It can be clearly seen that this is a new and very potential type of experience in Vietnam in general and in Ho Chi Minh City in particular.
Indeed, there are many challenges to implementing a new type of something. The first challenge is the procedures for applying a business license because this is a pilot type. There are also many shortcomings because this type of business has no precedent. Secondly, through the recent epidemic, the tourism personnel also changed a lot, but fortunately we still kept the key people.
In addition, a clear difference when deployed this type of bus tour in Vietnam compared to Europe is infrastructure and traffic. In Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, we can see a lot of traffic along with traffic jams at peak hours. This also partly affects the trip time and guest experience. However, looking at it from another angle, I see it as a specialty of our country. When the guests get on the bus, they will have a lot of free time to see from above how the Vietnamese traffic and how the people move around. We can take the advantage of traffic jam or unsynchronized infrastructure into a local feature for tourists to enjoy.
For me, when doing any business, product quality and brand-appropriate price are the two most important factors. However, maintaining the quality on each trip and inspiring the staff to keep the hospitality spirit is not easy. The key is that the leader also need to accompany and experience together with the team, listen to their opinions and ideas to make appropriate decisions. In addition, to ensure the service quality, we also have people regularly get in the bus to go with customers to find out their feelings and preferences, listen to their feedback to improve and edit immediately if there is a problem.
In terms of prices, in order to approach the Vietnamese market, we are having a promotion program in 2022 with a very good price. But I think the important thing is that no matter what the price is, quality is still the first factor, not that the price is cheaper, the quality is low. When our product is not good, even if I give it away, people will not take it.
When doing a tour or experience at a destination, almost everyone exploits the same attractions, but for double-decker buses, it’s important how you connect those points for a circular route with the most appropriate time and value. We have to balance the time and the way the passenger enjoy the sightseeing to avoid repeating the route or there are times when the customer has to sit in the bus for too long or the stopping time at each point is too fast, the guests go up and down continuously. Through my previous time as a tour guide, I also learned that when experiencing a product or visiting something, visitors want to have time for them to learn and feel the atmosphere as well as the local life. Currently, when making this double-decker bus product, I am also looking from that angle, focusing on designing the route and making sure the drivers drive slowly so that guests can have the most comfortable experiences.
Besides, to make the product competitive, of course, we must ensure the quality of the bus, from whether the seats are comfortable, how is the narration system, to the way the driver drives the car. Another important thing is the attitude of dealing with guests during the trip as well as receiving their feedbacks. We also have additional programs for guests such as when customers buy 24h or 48h tickets, at some points, there will be a walking tour to visit the typical alleys of the city or take a river bus, to increase their experiences. In addition to the main product, we will try to combine more surrounding experiences to create the most complete journey for visitors.
Currently, we have only officially operated vehicles in 3 localities: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Long. However, in the list that we ask for permission and plan to deploy, there are many other locations such as Da Nang, Phan Thiet – Binh Thuan, Nha Trang, Can Tho,…. On June 15-19, we sent a car to Nha Trang for a free trial run so that customers can get used to this type of vehicle, and after 5 days, it received a very positive feedbacks. Therefore, in the future, we will develop a fleet of vehicles in many other localities. But at the moment, the most important task for me and the company is to maintain good service quality in where we already have shown up, we have to make sure what we are doing first and then consider expanding later, avoid opening a lot but cannot control the quality.
Particularly for Ho Chi Minh City, with the current positive situation, and especially in the near future when more international tourists come back, we will have a plan to open Cho Lon route, which is also a very potential and interesting route for visitors to discover a typical local culture. I believe that whether a individual traveler or a group of traveler, they will still want to have their own time to experience the unique street corners or attractions of each destination. So surely this type of double-decker bus will be an attractive and interesting choice for every visitor when coming to Vietnam in general, and Ho Chi Minh City in particular.
Thank you for your sharing!