Business hums in Hanoi


“Organized chaos” is a description often applied to Hanoi – but the chaos part is mostly a myth. Nothing gets in the way of business in the Vietnamese capital.

There is a hypnotic poetry to the bustling streets of Hanoi. Motor scooters deftly navigate the narrow alleyways, weaving in and out between rickshaws and street vendors selling steaming bowls of pho – traditional rice noodle soup – from rickety pushcarts and street stalls.

“There are literally millions of motorbikes. The traffic looks like total chaos, but in some special way, which I don’t yet fully understand, it all flows smoothly. Vietnamese people are polite and flexible, which makes everything work, even in an avalanche of motorbikes,” says Jan Skutnabb, Finnair’s cargo sales director for Southeast Asia. “Skudi” is a long-time fan of Hanoi, which he describes as “Paris with a nice Asian twist”.  

Paris with a twist

The seemingly hectic ebb and flow of traffic on the streets of Old Hanoi belies the highly focused, business-driven mindset of the city’s 6.5 million hard-working inhabitants.

“All of South-East Asia is a manufacturing and global business hotspot, but Vietnam is among the strongest. Vietnam is diversifying its industry and spreading different industries to the southern and northern parts of the country. The level of education is also high,” says Skutnabb.

In light of figures newly released by the General Statistics Office of Vietnam (GSO) – with Vietnamese GDP showing a first-quarter year-on-year increase of five percent – Finnair’s decision to launch nonstop service between Europe and Hanoi last summer seems perfectly timed. 

A will and a way

“No amount of market studies can predict how popular a new route will be, but that’s the exciting part of this business. We met our targets for the Hanoi operation last year, and the route is continuing this summer. We are confident it will bring in good revenue both ways.”

So far, the Hanoi route has seen significant monthly throughput of 550 tonnes, consisting mainly of salmon shipped into Hanoi and mainly electronics exported to Europe. 

During winter season Finnair Cargo operated three weekly freighter flights to and from Hanoi, with departures from Helsinki on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and return flights to Europe on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. The three weekly passenger flights added to the roster on June 2nd made Finnair the only Western European carrier to fly passenger aircraft direct between Hanoi and Europe. 

Finnair Cargo is continuing its collaboration with its existing Global Sales Agent, Vector Aviation. “The experienced team in Hanoi, Saigon and Pnom Penh in Cambodia are bringing in very nice volumes. They are actively selling all possible routes that the Finnair Cargo network offers out of Asia. If one is full, a second choice is offered quickly. We always try to find a solution for our customers. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Skudi’s top three Hanoi attractions

1. “The Hanoi Hilton”

This is the grim nickname given to Hỏa Lò Prison by American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. The gatehouse is now a museum: “A must for people who love history. To understand the present, you need to know history.” 

2. Thang Long Water Puppetry Theatre

“A very special theatre, you'll be amazed! Even for a non-cultural person like me, it’s a real experience. But be sure to book your tickets in advance.”

3. Pho and Hanoi Beer 

“The problem with Vietnamese food is that it’s just too good. I just keep on eating and eating – but luckily there are always lots of veggies on your plate, so it’s also healthy. Vietnamese food and Hanoi Beer are a match made in heaven – like pasta and Italian red wine.”

Text by Silja Kudel


Published April 22, 2014

Category: Market updates