Vietnam tourism lacks signature products to lure international visitors: experts

By Lan Huong, Hoang Phong   March 7, 2022 | 05:00 pm PT
Vietnam tourism lacks signature products to lure international visitors: experts
Foreign tourists row a boat near Mua Cave in northern Ninh Binh Province, February 2020. Photo by Shutterstock
Vietnam's tourism industry needs to develop signature products and adopt an open visa policy to compete with neighboring countries, experts say.

While the nation has several advantages including natural beauty, rich culture and great cuisine, the industry has not succeeded in developing signature tourism products and this can pose new challenges as Vietnam reopens inbound tourism from March 15, they add.

"We can't fully satisfy foreign tourists yet, though we win big prizes in luxury tourism, own international-class resorts and leading global hotel brands," said Pham Ha, chairman of the Lux Group, which specializes in luxury cruise services.

"For many foreign tourists, Muay Thai, golden temples, traditional dances, language and cuisine come to their minds when mentioning Thailand," Ha explained.

Vietnam has dozens of UNESCO-recognized heritage sites, more than 3,000 nationally recognized relics and 5,000 provincially recognized ones.

In 2019-2020, Vietnam was honored as "world's leading heritage destination" by the World Travel Awards (WTA).

Ha said all this was evidence that the country can position its tourism brand and develop heritage-related tourism products.

"To attract high spending tourists post Covid, heritage tourism is extremely suitable because of its ability to connect with high-class resorts, golf and healthcare services,'' he said.

Doan Manh Phuoc, director of tourism development consulting firm Outbox Consulting, said tourism officials need to invest more in brand communication.

"Each country has its own characteristics, strengths and attractions for tourists. I believe that Vietnam needs to learn from other countries to promote its tourism brand to the international community," he said.

"To be frank, Vietnam has never had a clear and strategic tourism brand like other countries in the region have been doing," Phuoc stressed.

He said the industry should focus on promoting the country's image on international channels like CNN and BBC.

In addition to signature tourism products, experts and industry insiders have also proposed that the government considers waiving visas for nationals of more countries as regional countries have done.

Luong Hoai Nam, member of the Tourism Advisory Board, said the government should waive visas for visitors from the European Union, Australia and New Zealand.

For major tourism markets like China and the U.S., the government needs to consider long-term visas of up to 10 years to attract more visitors from there, he added.

Before the pandemic, Vietnam did not require visas for travelers from 24 countries, compared to Thailand's 61, Singapore's 158, Malaysia's 155, and Indonesia's 169.

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of leading tour operator Vietravel, said what the government should do urgently is to resume the visa policies that worked before the pandemic. This was needed to promote inbound tourism.

Several ministries have also proposed the government resumes the visa exemption policy that was in force before the Covid-19 pandemic but a final decision has not been made on this, though there is less than a week to go until full resumption of international tourism.

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