Even as the second Trump-Kim Summit in Hanoi came to an abrupt halt on Thursday (28 February), it became one of the few rare moments that the Vietnamese capital trended on the international radar after Barack Obama’s historic visit in 2016.
Hanoi was agreed upon as a venue two weeks ago, eclipsing Danang which was the preferred option of the Trump administration. Vietnam itself was a unique location given that US troops suffered a defeat there in the 1970s.
Following a similar arrangement with the first Trump-Kim summit held in Singapore last year, the two leaders stayed at separate hotels while their meeting was held at a different hotel. President Trump and his entourage stayed at the J.W. Marriott while Kim Jong Un picked Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel. The Guardian reported that US press corps headquarted at Melia were evicted as a result of the ‘double book’ situation.
The Trump-Kim meeting was held at Melia Hanoi. About 3,000 journalists, meanwhile, were gathered at the Cultural Friendship Palace which became the international media centre for the occasion.
Tran Viet Thuy, director, Pacific World Vietnam, believes that the exposure will drive tourism and increase the country’s profile as a safe destination.
Meanwhile, the government bodies, security details and hotels had a momentous task at hand to organise the summit under such a tight timeframe. The fact that they pulled it off implies that Hanoi can handle high-demand logistics and security, says Paul Levrier, managing director, Destination Asia (Vietnam).
He, however, is uncertain about the long-term impact of the summit on the meetings and events industry. In comparison to the historic first summit in Singapore, the international media attention has been more subdued, Levrier points out.
Meltwater estimated that Singapore gained about S$767 million (US$569 million) in exposure from the Trump-Kim summit, based on advertising value calculated on global online media mentions over the period when the summit was trending.
“But the mere fact that such a high profile meeting is taking place in a city far removed from the modern day standing of Singapore in the business world will hopefully stimulate confidence in a destination that may still be perceived to be ‘backwater’ by some in the industry,” Levrier says.
He emphasises that it is more challenging for Hanoi to organise the summit compared to Singapore which has world-class infrastructure and facilities. “Singapore is almost seamless in movement from the airport to the city and around town and has long been considered to be a safe, well-planned and structured urban environment,” says Levrier. “Hanoi, on the other hand, is not and is generally a larger, more chaotic city with fractured planning."
On a brighter side, Levrier says a destination’s appeal includes other factors such as its heritage and cultural offerings. “We have to remember it is not just the ability and the capacity to manage high-end meetings and events, but it is coupled with the sheer attraction of the city itself and the allure it has on visitors through its incredible architecture, rich cultural fabric, and the genuine friendliness of its people,” says Levrier.
In retrospect, the Trump-Kim summit was not the first high-profile political event hosted by Hanoi. The city hosted the APEC Investment Forum 2006 and the Asean Summit in 2010. The first Formula One Grand Prix, meanwhile, will be held in Hanoi for the first time in 2020.
Levrier believes that Hanoi has sufficient venue capacity for large-scale events, including the Vietnam National Convention Center ib the outskirts of the city which hosted both the APEC and Asean events. The emergence of unique venues also gives rise to interest in historical venues around the city for the incentive and conference clientele.
Among the examples given by Levrier include symphony performances and dining experiences at the Grand Opera House, as well as cultural events held at the Temple of Literature and the Hanoi Citadel.
“The wonderful thing about Hanoi is that there is an abundance of cultural sites that can be transformed into high-end gala events,” says Levrier.
Above all, it seems that Hanoi and Singapore have been 'fortunate' as the chosen cities. Trump has indicated that it could be “a long time” before his next meeting with the North Korean leader.