Vietnam must redouble slacking tourism efforts: experts

By Phuong Anh   June 24, 2024 | 07:55 pm PT
Vietnam must redouble slacking tourism efforts: experts
Foreign tourists at a resort in Hoi An in central Vietnam, March 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh
Vietnam's goal of 25-28 million tourists next year is only realistic if the slew of problems holding the country behind its neighbors, including visa policies, are addressed immediately, insiders argue.

This year Vietnam set a target of receiving 18 million foreign arrivals, the same level as pre-Covid numbers in 2019. Its goal next year would be equivalent to Thailand's figures in 2023.

Hoang Nhan Chinh, secretariat director of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, said the tourism industry had witnessed "quite positive" signals in terms of the average growth rate of international visitors in the first five months of 2024.

According to data released by the General Statistics Office, Vietnam welcomed nearly 7.6 million visitors between January and March, an increase of nearly 65% year-on-year, and an increase of nearly 4% compared to 2019.

In the first quarter, Vietnam ranked top 3 in ASEAN in terms of number of foreign visitors, after Thailand and Malaysia.

The tourism sector is receiving more attention from the government, including the issuance of "timely policies" to help the travel industry overcome difficulties and increase competitiveness, analysts have said.

"We believe that Vietnam will achieve its expected goals," Chinh said.

"The goal of welcoming 25-28 million visitors next year reflects the sector's determination to develop tourism as well as its desire to compete with leading tourism hubs in the region such as Thailand," he added.

Pham Hai Quynh, director of the Asian Tourism Development Institute, said the 25-28 million-visitor target would be a challenge for the industry.

However, with Vietnam's current efforts to restore its tourism segment, Quynh also said he believed that "we could achieve such target."

Pham Ha, CEO of luxury cruise operator Lux Group, said that if Vietnam does not straightaway overcome its current tourism problems such as cumbersome and bureaucratic visa policies and procedures or the lack of high-quality human resources in the service sector, it would be a challenge to meet such "lofty goals" as attracting 28 million foreign tourists.

Some 25-28 million visitors from wealthy, high-spending markets would help boost tourism revenues, analysts have said.

On the contrary, if the majority of visitors arrive via cheap tour packages and refuse to spend much money shopping and dining, then the number will not be as effective as desired, they argued.

"Many Vietnamese tourists go to Thailand 5-6 times almost every year," Ha said, adding that Vietnam’s major hope would be to develop a long-term plan to attract returning visitors on par with Thailand’s.

Vietnam now waives visas for travelers from 25 countries compared to 162 for Malaysia and Singapore, 157 for the Philippines, 93 for Thailand, 68 for Japan, and 66 for South Korea.

To facilitate the achievement of the goal, Chinh proposed the government expand the visa exemption list to the remaining 20 countries of the European Union (EU) and other countries such as the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and China.

"If we waive visas and increase direct air routes to countries such as India, New Zealand, Australia or Eastern and Western European countries, it would help attract a large number of tourists from these markets," Ha pointed out.

Thailand and Malaysia have already targeted the Indian tourist market with visa waiver policies.

Industry insiders also said Vietnam should expand its flight network, connecting direct flights from key markets. In addition, upgrading major airports such as Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat to increase the capability of welcoming international passengers is also a must-to-do.

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