Da Nang has become the first city in Vietnam to relax long-standing restrictions and allow foreign tourist cruise ships to keep their casinos and free-duty shops open after arrival.
The new policy is intended to help the central city draw more visitors, particularly those with more money to spend.
Tran Chi Cuong, deputy director of Da Nang’s tourism department, said the restrictions will be lifted from the middle of this month and a ship operated by Hong Kong-based Star Cruises will be the first to benefit from the policy.
Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon Online reported that the company has been meeting with officials from Da Nang and Quang Ninh Province, known for Ha Long Bay, as well as officials from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, asking to keep all their services like casinos and shops on their ships open after reaching Vietnam.
The company plans to send hundreds of cruise trips to the country by 2017.
But it received a nod only from Da Nang, which saw a 34 percent increase in foreign arrivals from 2014 to 1.27 million in 2015.
Cuong said Da Nang is expected to receive around 110 cruise trips from the company this year, each bringing thousands of tourists and crew members.
Foreign cruise operators have been making the request to open gambling services at Vietnamese ports for years, but to no avail.
They said many cruise passengers do not leave the ship for a tour on the mainland and thus entertainment aboard is still needed.
Vietnam, which bans gambling, now only allows foreigners to enter its eight casinos.
Cruise operators said their activities at local ports will not circumvent the government's ban because any person who wants to get on their ships will need to go through immigration procedures.
Foreign arrivals by sea in 2015 increased 27.5 percent, compared to a modest rise of 0.8 percent in arrivals by air, according to the General Statistics Office.