Though the rapid rate of development has not hit Hanoi as hard as it has Ho Chi Minh City, the capital city of Vietnam still seems overwhelmed with new constructions. How this affects tourism numbers in the long term remains to be seen, but, for now, the number of visitors is rising (2 million international visitors projected by 2010).
Hanoi is known for its lakes and for being a city built by many different influences. Tourists are drawn by the unique blend of French, Chinese and Vietnamese architecture, art and cuisine. Hanoi is rushing to compound its tourism success. New roads, shopping centers and hotels are a big part of the effort. One wonders if the charm and urban quaintness that has attracted people in the past will be lost amidst the blitz of all things new.
An example of this modernization: a Holiday Inn, Hanoi’s first, will be completed in 2010. The glitzy 300 room hotel will sit at the middle of a large upscale shopping, commercial and entertainment complex in the central Dong Da District. InterContinental Hotels Group, which is responsible for bringing the well known hotel brand to Vietnam, is banking on its name to help it succeed. Holiday Inn is a familiar hotel and, in an up-and-coming destination like Hanoi, that might lead to many people choosing it as a default when it comes to accommodation.
The coming of Holiday Inn and its ilk might be a bad signal for all the family-run guest houses and locally owned inns that dot the city. I’m not going to say that all this development is ruining the Hanoi experience. I’m going to think it, but I won’t say it. You can’t really criticize a city for trying to modernize and bring more dollars into its economy. At the same time, those of you who want to experience the deep sense of history and the diverse cultural influences might want to start booking your flight soon, lest you find nothing but Holiday Inns and KFCs.