Vietnam tourism sees robust growth from Asian markets

By Nguyen Quy   April 1, 2019 | 05:09 am PT
Vietnam tourism sees robust growth from Asian markets
Foreign tourists walk on a street in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Tourist numbers from Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and South Korea saw strong growth January-March while China saw a decline.

The first three months of this year saw the highest rise in Thai visitors with 124,600 arrivals, a massive 49.3 percent increase year-on-year, followed by Taiwan (26 percent) and the Philippines (25 percent).

Meanwhile, a record high 1.1 million holidaymakers from South Korea touched down in Vietnam, up 24.1 percent. In January, South Koreans had surpassed Chinese for the first time to become the biggest feeder market for Vietnamese tourism.

However, even with a reported 5.6 percent year-on-year decrease in January-March, the 1.3 million Chinese spending their holidays here topped the list of foreign arrivals in the country.

Foreign arrivals in Vietnam in the first quarter of this year are estimated at 4.5 million, up seven percent from a year ago, putting the country on track to meet its annual target to welcome 18 million foreigners this year, according to the General Statistics Office. 

Most visitors arrived by air, accounting for over 77 percent of the total. 

The increase is also linked to increasing numbers of overseas Vietnamese returning home for Tet, the Lunar New Year festival, which fell in the first week of February this year, and an increase in the number of visitors from Europe, the U.S and Australia coming to Vietnam during the winter break. 

In the first quarter of 2019, the number of tourists from Europe grew by 6.1 percent.

Tourists eat out late at night in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Tourists eat out late at night in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

The historic second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the capital Hanoi from February 27-28 is also believed to have contributed to an increase in foreign arrivals to Vietnam

The country’s efforts to relax its visa policies also fuelled the rise. Vietnam first allowed foreign tourists to apply for a visa online in February 2017, starting with 40 countries including China, South Korea and the U.S. It recently added 35 more countries, including emerging tourism markets in Europe, to the list of those whose nationals can visit the country with e-visas, raising the total list of beneficiaries to 80.

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), a foreign visitor spends $900 on average for a trip to Vietnam, well below neighboring countries like Singapore ($1,105), Indonesia ($1,109) and Thailand ($1,565).

Vietnam is in the midst of a tourism boom, with a record high of 15.5 million foreign visitors arriving in 2018, a rise of 20 percent against the previous year.

Based on the average annual growth rate of foreign arrivals, Vietnam is likely to lead the Asia-Pacific region in attracting international visitors from 2019-2023, according to the latest Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts report released by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Tourism is expected to contribute 10 percent to Vietnam’s GDP by 2020, when the country plans to welcome up to 20 million foreign visitors and earn $35 billion in tourism revenues.

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