CHARLOTTE TRUONG WRITES — Vietnam in general and Saigon in particular have controlled the pandemic very well, so entertainment services during the day and at night were soon allowed to resume operations. The service sector, though, is facing a period of extreme challenges, which is how to maintain, as well as how to recover the economy after the epidemic?
As of mid-July 2020, Vietnam regulations do not allow foreign tourists to enter the country because of concerns about outbreaks caused by outsiders, so the night-time economic development model in Saigon is stuck.
Saigon was once dubbed a sleepless locality (like New York City) with the busiest and most exciting nightlife, but currently some services go to “sleep early” because they have been unable to cope after the COVID-19 epidemic and have not regained customers. Entertainment is mainly for foreigners at night, specifically on Bui Vien Street, which is now like a candle in the wind because there is no revenue.
This street is also called the “backpackers area” in Saigon. It has a wide variety of inexpensive restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, hotels and hostels. Normally tourists soak up the local lifestyle and culture at nighttime by walking around the ‘Western street,’ surveying bars, beer clubs. Restaurants previously were mainly open to Western guests but now managers and waiters virtually beg Vietnamese guests by offering free beer and promotions.
The hope now is to gradually create a business balance between native Vietnamese and Western tourists. Meanwhile, Bui Vien Street is struggling to attract Vietnamese tourists and merchants and not enough Vietnamese are bringing stable revenue to support the nightlife of this one-time most noisy street in the city.