Vietnam's tourism recovery slower than other parts of Southeast Asia

By Phuong Anh   August 31, 2023 | 07:30 pm PT
Vietnam's tourism recovery slower than other parts of Southeast Asia
A group of Spanish tourists visit Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi, Aug. 20, 2023. Photo by Nguyen Anh Tuan
Though Vietnam has nearly achieved its target of welcoming 8 million foreign tourist arrivals this year, its tourism recovery rate remains lower than its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Vietnam received 7.8 million foreign visitors in the first eight months of this year, reaching 98% of year's 8-million target, according to the General Statistics Office.

A report by tourism development consulting firm Outbox Company has pointed out Vietnam is in good shape with the highest rate of achieving its foreign tourist targets in the region.

However, Vietnam's 2023 target was the lowest among the five most popular destinations in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, initially set a goal of welcoming 7.4 million foreign tourists but then it revised its target up to 8.5 million this year while Thailand expects to receive 30 million foreign arrivals, including 5 million from China.

Malaysia expects to welcome 18 million foreign tourists while Singapore is set to attract 14 million.

Vietnam’s tourism recovery rate in 2023 compared to pre-pandemic levels is only 44%, lowest among the top five Southeast Asian countries – Thailand (75%), Singapore (73%), Malaysia (69%), and Indonesia (53%).

Explaining why Vietnam set a target of 8 million international visitors in 2023, Pham Hai Quynh, director of the Asian Tourism Development Institute, said the figure "was a safe target for recovery post reopening."

Pham Ha, CEO of Lux Group, which specializes in operating luxury cruise tourism, said Vietnam’s foreign tourist target was the lowest in the top five Southeast Asian countries as "Vietnam has a long tradition of setting a low goal so that it could easily achieve by the end of the year."

Hoang Nhan Chinh, secretariat director of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, said Vietnam's tourism industry had received strong support from the government in relaxing visa policies.

"If the tourism industry is determined to set a higher goal, the whole industry will work together towards achieving that," Chinh added.

By the end of the year, Vietnam will welcome 12-13 million international visitors, or even more, he added.

If nothing changes and technical barriers are promptly removed, Vietnamese tourism could fully recover to pre-pandemic levels next year, he said.

To bring Vietnam’s tourism back to its heyday, the board proposed the tourism industry boost promotion campaigns on international media about Vietnam’s new visa policies.

Starting from Aug. 15, Vietnam accepts e-visa registration from citizens from all countries and territories, with the visa valid for multiple entries and for 90 days.

In addition to grating e-visas to all countries, the government also extended the duration of stays in Vietnam from 15 to 45 days for citizens of 13 countries unilaterally exempted from visas.

Currently, many websites of Vietnamese embassies in other countries have not regularly updated information about new policies, although this is the first source of information that foreign tourists look for if they want to travel to Vietnam.

"Sometimes it is not certain that tourists trust the information on the websites of local travel companies. They trust the website of the Vietnamese embassy located in their country more because it is an official source," Chinh said.

Ha said: "We don't need to look far, look at Thailand about the way they do tourism."

He said Thailand has positioned itself well as the country of golden pagodas, and the land of smiles.

Thailand has enough resources for tourism and has opened many tourism promotion offices abroad. The Tourism Authority of Thailand currently has 29 offices around the world and they deeply understand the travel habits of tourists in each region.

The peak season of international tourism season typically lasts from September until April next year as western tourists flock to Vietnam for a winter holiday break.

Industry insiders said this would be a golden chance for Vietnam to welcome a large number of European tourists to Vietnam following the relaxation of visa rules.

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