Vietnam's largest tourism markets yet to recover fully after Covid

By Hoang Phong   October 11, 2023 | 04:20 pm PT
Vietnam's largest tourism markets yet to recover fully after Covid
Foreign tourists pose for the photographer as they watch a street art performance in Hue, April 29, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh
While Vietnam's main tourism markets like China, South Korea and the U.S. are still recovering to pre-Covid levels, Southeast Asia has become a bright spot for its inbound tourism.

Vietnam has already achieved its full-year foreign tourist target of eight million and it now expects to receive 13 million visitors this year.

But of its five biggest tourism feeder markets, the U.S. has a recovery rate of only 96.4%, while it is even lower in South Korea (82.3%), Taiwan (85.3%), Japan (60%), and China (28%), according to data from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

The number of visitors from the 13 countries for whom Vietnam waives visas has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels either.

Tourism insiders said there are several factors for this.

Martin Koerner, head of the Vietnam Business Forum's tourism working group, told VnExpress International that airfares from destinations such as Europe and the U.S. are at double pre-pandemic levels, which dissuades American and European tourists.

"In addition, we are seeing a global economic downturn. That means people, especially in the middle class, who previously went on overseas trips can now only travel domestically or regionally."

The number of flights to Vietnam from key markets remains far below 2019 levels, he said.

Last month China Southern Airlines became the first Chinese carrier to resume flights that had been suspended due to Covidto Cam Ranh/Nha Trang, a key market for Chinese tourists, Koerner said to highlight the slow recovery of flight connections between the two countries.

"If we compare that with 2019, when dozens of scheduled flights and charter flights arrived daily, we can easily see why the number of inbound tourists has not yet fully recovered.

"It will take significantly more time for the aviation industry to readjust all its air routes and I don't see that happening before 2025."

A survey released on September 18 by Big Data Research Institute and Beijing-based online travel company Qunar showed that Vietnam is no longer a top choice of Chinese tourists.

Limited travel experiences and the shortage of luxury services have caused Chinese tourists to reject Vietnam, Dao Viet Long, CEO of Hanoi travel firm Fantasea, said.

Bright spot

In the event, Southeast Asian countries are propping up the inbound tourism market.

Cambodia is now Vietnam's fastest growing tourism market with the number of visitors in the first nine months of this year at 267% higher than the same period of pre-pandemic levels, followed by Singapore (106%) and Thailand (101%).

The visa-free stay of 30 days ASEAN member countries allow each other's nationals means Vietnam is popular among tourists from Southeast Asia.

The recent launch of new direct flights to Vietnamese cities from Southeast Asian tourist hubs has contributed to the rapid recovery, insiders said.

But they warned that Vietnam's neighbors are warming up in the international tourism race.

From September 25 Thailand has waived visas for Chinese and Kazakh tourists, while Indonesia recently unveiled its golden visa policy that allows foreigners to stay for up to 10 years.

Myanmar plans to offer visas on arrival for Chinese tourists.

"Vietnam should make a stronger effort in its overseas marketing activities by opening representative offices in the key markets we target," Koerner said.

"Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are doing that and if we want to compete with these countries for the same type of travelers, we must get better in our promotions and marketing."

go to top