Vietnam's 'beauty' pales to Thailand's 'advanced' tourism: visitors

By Hoang Phong    June 5, 2024 | 08:01 pm PT
Vietnam's 'beauty' pales to Thailand's 'advanced' tourism: visitors
Foreign tourists pose next to a mural painting in Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam, May 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh
Foreigners praise Vietnam's natural beauty and friendliness, but they cringe at trash problems and often compare the country unfavorably to Thailand in terms of the latter's more professional tourism.

Grant Wilson from Australia said he had traveled to most Southeast Asian countries and Vietnam was his favorite.

He said Vietnam’s beautiful landscapes, especially in northern mountainous provinces such as Ha Giang and Cao Bang, boasted "amazing scenery and strong ethnic minority community culture."

But Wilson, 61, said the Thai people have a higher quality of tourism services than the Vietnamese.

"I think Thailand’s shopping, entertainment and transportation services are much more advanced than in Vietnam," he said. "And the Thais also know how to deal with tourists much more efficiently, while Vietnam has too much rubbish and litter on its beaches."

Grant Wilson (L) takes a photo with his friend in HCMC. Photo courtesy of Grant Wilson

Grant Wilson (L) takes a photo with his friend in HCMC. Photo courtesy of Grant Wilson

All tourism destinations in Thailand have daily night markets, interesting bars and night clubs, Wilson said. He added that the capital of Bangkok had an inexpensive and convenient transportation system.

Tor Loo from Malaysia, who said he had visited many Southeast Asian countries, also praised Thailand's transport system over Vietnam's.

Thailand is easily accessible by road, rail, bus, car or ferry as the infrastructure in the kingdom is well developed, even in the countryside, Loo said.

In Thailand, buses and vans are easily available, especially in countryside, while these means of transport are rare in remote parts of Vietnam.

Although he conceded that both countries are ideal for foreign tourists to visit all year round thanks to their natural beauty and climate, Loo said most local people in Vietnam have poor English skills, while Thai people speak the international language better.

Vietnam has been striving to boost tourism recovery post Covid, but has not gained positive results in its competition with countries in the region.

The country ranks 59th out of 119 economies on this year's World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Development Index, trailing many of its Southeast Asian neighbors such as Singapore (13th), Indonesia (22nd), Malaysia (35th), and Thailand (47th).

In the first five months this year, Thailand received 14.3 million foreign tourists, twice Vietnam’s figure.

Boon and bane

Tourists said Vietnam had its problems but also many strengths compared to other regional peers.

Loo said he was not impressed with Indonesia's tourism services. He argued that the traffic was "horrible and messy," and the food was "quite expensive" compared to Vietnam.

Ken Ballard from Canada said he had visited Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Bali.

He said he loved the food and friendly people in both Vietnam and Thailand, where he always received a warm welcome from local people.

"Vietnam is quite safe, while Thailand is a little more laid back," Ballard said.

Ken Ballard on a beach in Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam, January 2024. Photo courtesy of Ken Ballard

Ken Ballard on a beach in Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam, January 2024. Photo courtesy of Ken Ballard

He said Singapore "is not authentic" and there were few places of interest to see in the city-state. Although he said it also had the cleanest and "most amazing airport in the world."

In Bali, he felt some areas on the island were heavily congested, though the private drivers for hire there were "amazing" and local people were "super friendly."

Wilson also praised Bali for its "lovely" people, but for him the island was too "touristy." He also considered Malaysia too expensive, much like a Western country.

Many foreigners interviewed for this article said Vietnam should crack down on tourist scams such as price gouging, while cleaning up trashed-filled beaches and generally improving the quality of tourism services – especially in terms of boosting night-time options to compete with Thailand.

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