China top feeder market for Vietnamese tourism

By Nguyen Quy   March 1, 2019 | 04:53 am PT
China top feeder market for Vietnamese tourism
Chinese tourists enter the boats to get to islands in the central resort town of Nha Trang from Cau Da Port. Photo by AFP/Linh Pham
February saw Chinese tourists dethrone their South Korean brethren and post the highest number of arrivals in Vietnam.

The South Koreans had occupied the top spot in January, but China took over the position in February with 516,351 tourist arrivals, a 38.2 percent increase over the previous month.

In February, the number of South Korean tourists dropped 1.5 percent to 383,205, according to the General Statistics Office.

International arrivals in the first two months of 2019 are estimated at 3.08 million, up eight percent over the same period last year. Despite a 1.3 percent year-on-year decrease, China topped the list of foreign visitors 889,888. South Korea followed with 772,182 arrivals, up 24.6 percent.

Survey results released last year by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism showed the average daily spending by Chinese visitors increased from $118.6 in 2014 to $130 in 2018.

Compared to other regional countries, the daily spending was below that of Chinese visitors to Thailand ($180), Indonesia ($183) and Singapore ($446).

Many direct flights connecting Vietnamese major cities with China have been launched over the past years to cater to growing demand.

Chinese visitors have also been encouraged by a new policy that allows groups to visit the border province of Quang Ninh in northern Vietnam, home to the popular Ha Long Bay, for up to three days without a visa.

The Vietnamese government has also allowed Chinese nationals to apply for 30-day single-entry electronic visas for holidays and business trips.

A Bloomberg report in 2016 had said that Chinese tourists could have a big impact on Vietnam’s economy. It said a 30 percent increase in spending by Chinese tourists would boost Vietnam’s economic growth by nearly 1 percentage point. For Thailand, that would be around 1.6.

It quoted Edward Lee, an economist with Standard Chartered Plc in Singapore, as saying: "Chinese tourism is pretty big for ASEAN now, and all the countries rely on Chinese visitors to keep coming and keep spending."

Vietnam has targeted its tourism sector becoming a key contributor to the national economy by 2020, when the country is expected to receive up to 20 million foreign visitors and earn $35 billion in tourism revenue.

Last year, Vietnam welcomed 15 million foreign arrivals, a record height.

Figures compiled by CLSA, a Hong Kong brokerage and investment firm formally known as Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia, showed in 2017 Vietnam had overtaken France to enter the list of top 10 popular destinations among Chinese tourists.

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