Tourism and Film Collaboration to Highlight National Beauty Spots

To maximize the potential of promoting Vietnam's natural wonders, the cinema and tourism industries must build a strong partnership.

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A recent report from Expedia, titled “Travel Trends 2023,” has revealed that a significant portion of global travelers are interested in visiting destinations that have been featured in movies. In fact, about 66% of travelers worldwide have expressed this interest, and approximately 39% of traveler bookings were influenced by storylines seen in films.

Vietnamese cinema has collaborated with the tourism industry to create visually stunning footage showcasing the country’s tourist attractions. However, this form of promotion has its challenges.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw Vietnam become the filming location for French productions like “The Lover,” “Dien Bien Phu,” and “Indochina,” which attracted a large number of visitors eager to explore the country’s untouched natural beauty.

Director Victor Vu’s film, “Yellow Flowers on Green Grass,” highlighted Phu Yen and the famous beach towns of Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa province and Quy Nhon in Binh Dinh.

Hanoi is an ideal location for film production. Photo: VNA

Travel agencies have attributed the surge in tourism to Phu Yen to the picturesque scenery depicted in movies. Many other Vietnamese films have also positively impacted domestic destinations.

One film that stood out globally was “A Tourist’s Guide to Love,” released on Netflix in Vietnam last April. This movie was shot in Hanoi, Ha Giang, Da Nang, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City, showcasing five iconic destinations in Vietnam. Within just four days of its release, it amassed a viewing time of 13.4 million hours, ranking third on the list of most-watched English movies worldwide.

After becoming one of the top 10 most-watched films in Vietnam, “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” achieved global success in 77 countries. The film highlighted Vietnam’s natural beauty, cultural heritage, and diverse population, appealing to a wide global audience.

Despite Vietnam’s rich cultural identity, abundant tourism resources, and the positive impact of these movies, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung believes that the country has not been able to attract as many foreign film crews as neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

“The promotion of destinations through cinematographic works has been modest and has not taken full advantage of the available opportunities,” said Minister Hung, emphasizing the need for cooperation between the film and tourism sectors for mutual development.

A Hollywood-based film studio had shown interest in filming a segment of the highly acclaimed 007 blockbuster series in Vietnam. Preparations were already underway, including securing a large ship as a backdrop in Ha Long Bay. However, due to a lack of permits, the film was unable to proceed and was relocated to Khao Phing Kan Island in Thailand.

Rachael Leigh Cook in a scene of A Tourist’s Guide to Love in My Son Sanctuary, Quang Nam. Photo: Netflix

The popularity of the filming location in Khao Phing Kan has now rivalled that of Vietnam’s Titov Beach and Kissing Rocks in Ha Long Bay, with the Thais even renaming it James Bond Island.

Vietnam also missed the opportunity to host the highly acclaimed filmmaker Oliver Stone, who has twice won the Academy Award for Best Director and another Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Due to cumbersome regulations, Oliver Stone chose to film his movie “Heaven and Earth” in Thailand instead of Vietnam.

Experts attribute these missed opportunities to strict script censorship, which makes foreign film studios view Vietnam as an unattractive option for filming.

It’s time for cinema and tourism to join forces.

Both international and local filmmakers face complicated administrative procedures when seeking filming locations in Vietnam.

“There is too much paperwork and no standardized procedure, which makes it very inconvenient for studios,” said director Phan Gia Nhat Linh.

The focus of local governments on promoting popular tourist attractions has posed challenges for filmmakers looking to explore new, unseen locations. Nonetheless, filmmakers continue to search for unique scenes for their films.

International tourists visit the filming site of Kong: Skull Island in Ninh Binh. Photo: VNA

In order to fully utilize the potential of film locations for tourism promotion, Director Linh suggests that filmmakers should work closely with travel agencies and the tourism industry.

Nguyen Van Tinh, an experienced professional in the film and culture industry, also highlighted the importance of focusing on cultural heritage, Vietnamese cuisine, and traditional handicraft villages in film production. Tinh proposed that the tourism industry can commission producers to create short films on these topics, showcasing scenic landscapes and stunning shots.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung stressed the need for enterprises, investors, and all relevant units to take measures to strengthen cooperation between the film and tourism industries for the growth of Vietnam’s green economy.

Minister Hung also emphasized the urgency of finalizing policies to enhance competitiveness and streamline procedures to facilitate foreign film production in Vietnam.

Localities and tourism enterprises should synchronize their tourism promotion plans with film production schedules, Hung added.