Arrivals from China in January increased 67.9 percent from a year ago, accounting for a quarter of Vietnam’s total international tourist number, according to the General Statistics Office.
The country welcomed more than 1 million foreign visitors in the first month of 2017, a 23.6 percent increase, official data showed. Nearly 70 percent of the arrivals were from Asian countries.
China continued to maintain its place as the biggest feeder market with a record high 247,621 visitors. The number of Chinese tourists hit 2.5 million last year, out of the total 10 million visitors, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.
Vietnam’s proximity to China has made it a popular destination to many Chinese who want a vacation overseas without a long haul journey.
Most Chinese tourists come in through northern border provinces, particularly Quang Ninh, home of the famous Ha Long Bay, arguably the country’s top sightseeing attraction. Quang Ninh has recently allowed Chinese travelers in groups to stay up to three days without a tourist visa.
Vietnam has also offered visa exemptions to visitors from South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asian neighbors. Since mid-2015 it has also attracted more tourists from Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. with a similar policy, which is expected to be extended this summer.
Hoping to give the tourism industry a major push, the Vietnamese government has launched the much-touted online visa system for travelers on short holidays or casual business visits.
Tourism authorities are eyeing a 15 percent increase in international tourists this year.
Tourism is expected to contribute 10 percent to Vietnam’s gross domestic product, becoming a key driving force of the economy by 2020, when the country is expected to receive up to 20 million foreign visitors and earn $35 billion in tourism revenue.