Vietnam no longer top choice for Chinese tourists

By Phuong Anh   October 4, 2023 | 04:28 pm PT
Vietnam no longer top choice for Chinese tourists
Chinese tourists visit the Central Post Office in downtown HCMC, June 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung
Chinese travelers were Vietnam's largest source of tourists before Covid, but the local travel industry is now worried because the country is not even in China's top favored destinations.

A survey released on September 18 by Big Data Research Institute and Beijing-based online travel company Qunar showed that Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong are the top six Asian destinations for mainland Chinese tourists.

A mid-September survey also showed that 80% of Chinese respondents want to travel abroad in the next year, the highest figure in two years.

Dao Viet Long, CEO of Hanoi-based travel firm Fantasea, said Nha Trang, Da Nang and Phu Quoc were Chinese tourists' favorite destinations before the pandemic. He added that during the peak travel season, over 20,000 Chinese tourists flocked to Nha Trang every day via charter flights.

Limited travel options and the lack of luxury services have caused Chinese tourists to turn away with Vietnam, Long said. He added that Vietnam is still considered a "cheap" destination because the tourism industry used to offer low-quality, untransparent tour packages called "zero-dollar tours" for Chinese citizens before the pandemic.

At that time, many Chinese tourists arrived in Vietnam through cheap tours organized by Chinese travel companies, in which Chinese visitors would stay at Chinese-run hotels, eat at Chinese restaurants, and shop at Chinese shopping outlets. They also used Chinese tour guides instead of local ones.

Pham Ha, CEO of luxury cruise tour operator Lux Group, said Chinese tourists were the world's largest outbound tourism market and many Southeast Asian countries compete to lure tourists from the market.

Ha said Vietnam should improve its promotion campaigns and upgrade the country to a luxury destination.

"What Vietnam should do now is to simulate Thailand by offering visa exemptions for Chinese tourists, and increase direct routes to China," Ha added.

Long said improving immigration procedures for Chinese tourists could be a key factor in helping Vietnam to recover its share of the major market.

In addition to Thailand, other Southeast Asian countries are also scrambling to attract Chinese tourists.

The Malaysian government is considering waiving visas for Chinese travelers, while Myanmar plans to offer visas on arrival.

In the first nine months of this year, Vietnam received over 1.1 million Chinese tourists, equivalent to 28% of pre-pandemic levels.

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