Tourists don’t have much to spend on in Vietnam: forum

By Lan Huong   December 9, 2019 | 07:58 am PT
Tourists don’t have much to spend on in Vietnam: forum
A group of French tourists visit Hanoi in February 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh.
Even as increasing numbers of tourists visit Vietnam, there is a lack of products and services for them to consume, industry insiders say.

The problem of visitors’ not spending much during their stay in the country was a hot topic discussed at the Vietnam Travel and Tourism Summit 2019 held in Hanoi Monday.

Ngo Hoai Chung, Deputy General Director of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, noted that Vietnam's tourism has developed rapidly in recent years. Between 2016 and 2018, the average growth rate of international visitors to Vietnam was 12.8 percent. 

In 2018, the country welcomed 15.5 million visitors, an increase of 19.9 percent year-on-year, contributing about 8.5 percent to the GDP. In the first 11 months of this year, the number of foreign arrivals reached 16.3 million, up 15.5 percent over the same period last year.

Despite these impressive figures, industry insiders said the tourism industry needs to find ways to make visitors stay longer and spend more.

Nguyen Thuy Yen, Deputy Director of Quang Ninh’s Tourism Department, noted that on average, a tourist typically spends VND2.4 million ($103) a day and stays for 2.7 days. "Currently, revenue from international visitors is not commensurate with the potential of Vietnam tourism," she said.

Many forum participants pointed out that the problem lies in the lack of diversity and attractiveness of tourism products and services, which are failing to meet the entertainment and shopping needs of visitors. They said other limiting factors include the lack of well trained personnel, weak application of information technology and inadequate infrastructure.

Cao Tri Dung, chairman of the Da Nang Tourism Association, said the disadvantages arose from the fact that "local attractions are often restrained by the system". He argued that localities should directly work with businesses to develop tourism products and ensure revenues.

Vo Anh Tai, deputy general director of leading travel firm Saigontourist, said post-travel surveys showed that tourists were neither spending enough nor feeling satisfied with their experience in the country because of inconveniences like heavy traffic and pollution as well as a lack of shopping and entertainment options.

He added that the industry has not trained staff well to support visitors when they have problems. "Low foreign language skills, expensive visa and tour prices and the lack of direct flights also contribute to the problem."

Tai used Cuba as an example, saying the country’s "sophisticated and high-class cigar products" helps increase visitor spending. In Vietnam, national products of high value are limited and not well defined. Tour operators also need to be creative in producing interesting products, he added.

Nguyen Le Huong, deputy general director of Viettravel, another major travel firm, drew attention to the underdeveloped marine tourism sector, saying that with more than 2,000 rivers, Vietnam has immense potential in waterway tourism.

She noted that the Ha Long International Port has welcomed more than 42,000 passengers since the beginning of this year after opening to traffic at the end of last year.

Huong said investors should be encouraged to buy big ships, but advised against "concretization" of the nation’s rivers. "Instead, Vietnam needs to have a diversity of destinations and landscapes alongside waterways to boost visitor traffic."

Agreeing with several forum commenters, Phung Quang Thang, director of Hanoitourist, said: "If you want the customers to have good experience, you need to provide good service."

The attitude of people in the industry is also very important, he stressed, adding that Vietnam has to improve the training it provides to industry personnel, including managers.

Nguyen Van Dinh with the Science Council under the Vietnam Tourism Association, said there was a lack of quantity and quality in tourism human resources. "Vietnam has 1.3 million people employed in the tourism industry, 38 percent of whom don’t have a tourism background and 20 percent have not received any training."

Ngo Hoai Chung, Deputy General Director of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, speaks at the Vietnam Travel and Tourism Summit held in Hanoi on December 9, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Kieu Duong.

Ngo Hoai Chung, Deputy General Director of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, speaks at the Vietnam Travel and Tourism Summit held in Hanoi on December 9, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Kieu Duong.

Many local authorities said they have recognized the challenge and begun to look for ways to increase visitors’ spending.

Dinh Manh Thang, chairman of the Thua Thien Hue Tourism Association, said the central province has always prioritized the preservation of cultural values of the Nguyen Dynasty in the development its tourism industry. He said preserving and restoring cultural heritages was essential to increase the added value of visitors. Hue is the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam's last royal family (1802-1945).

Yen of the Quang Ninh Department of Tourism said Quang Ninh will continue to diversify its tourism products and services, covering all its natural attractions – mountains, forests, plains, bays and other landscapes.

The Vietnam Travel and Tourism Summit 2019 was organized by the Department for Private Sector Development Studies under the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), and VnExpress.

go to top