American tourists a 'golden mine' Vietnam yet to tap

By Phuong Anh   September 8, 2023 | 08:00 pm PT
American tourists a 'golden mine' Vietnam yet to tap
American tourists wear Vietnamese conical hats 'non la' and traditional checkered black and white shawl 'khan rang' in HCMC on April 8, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi
The U.S. is the third biggest source of visitors and considered a 'golden mine' for Vietnam's tourism but experts said the market's potential has not yet been fully exploited.

Vietnam welcomed more than 7.8 million international visitors in the first eight months of this year, according to data from the National Tourism Administration. Of which, American tourists ranked third with nearly 503,000 arrivals, after South Korea (2.2 million) and China (950,000).

In 2022, when China has not yet reopened its borders, the U.S. sent the second highest number of visitors to Vietnam after South Korea.

Data from the National Tourism Administration showed that for 10 consecutive years before the pandemic (2010-2019), the number of American visitors to Vietnam always ranked 4th or 5th in the top source markets.

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of leading tour operator Vietravel, said American visitors to Vietnam spend a lot on food, hotels, and sightseeing tours, "even higher than other markets such as China and Europe."

According to the 2022 Statistical Yearbook of the General Statistics Office, American visitors spent an average of US$1,710 while visiting Vietnam in 2019, ranking third after Filipino ($2,257) and Belgian ($1,995).

American tourists also tend to travel longer and often bring relatives along, Hoang added.

Lindy, 40, came to Vietnam for three weeks with her family earlier this year and was quickly captivated by the local cuisine.

The American woman said she loves bun cha (Vietnamese grilled pork with rice noodles), banh cuon (steamed rice rolls) and dumplings.

"Seafood in Ha Long is extremely fresh and delicious. I visited Ha Long Bay and stayed for a week, but still wished I could stay longer," the tourist living in Kansas said.

"The whole family had a fun trip at a very affordable price."

Pham Ha, CEO of Lux Group, which specializes in operating luxury cruise tourism, said American tourists spend 15-45 days on average a year on traveling.

They always come to Vietnam and then visit Thailand, Laos or Cambodia, and return to Vietnam.

"American tourists account for 10% of total number of visitors my company welcomes every year, but their spending is double, triple or even 10 times that of visitors from other markets," said Ha.

According to statistics from Lux Group company, each American visitor spends an average of $400-500, even $1,000 a day. This number is considered high because an average foreign visitor in Vietnam for 9 days spends about $1,200.

The U.S. is not only a potential market but also a "gold mine" that the Vietnamese tourism industry needs to target to find a way to fully exploit it, Ha said.

Starting from 2017, Vietnam has added the U.S. in a list of eligible countries for e-visa issuance. But that seems not enough.

35 million American tourists traveled around the world in the first half of this year, but only more than half a million came to Vietnam.

Insiders said Vietnam should relax visa procedures and promote tourism campaigns in the U.S. to attract more Americans to Vietnam.

Ha said opening tourism representative offices in major cities in the U.S. is essential.

Hoang said travel businesses need to research and regularly participate in annual travel fairs and roadshows in the U.S. such as Roadshow Travel Industry Exchange, New York Times Travel Show and Seatrade Cruise Global.

Tourism insiders have several times called on the government to offer visa exemption for tourists from the U.S. to boost its tourism recovery. Vietnam already waives visas for travelers from 25 countries, including Japan, South Korea and Western European tourists.

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