Why Vietnam is losing out in tourism development ranking

By Phuong Anh   June 10, 2024 | 10:40 pm PT
Why Vietnam is losing out in tourism development ranking
Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City is crowded on Jan. 10, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Loosely connected supply chains, poor infrastructure and limited services are some of weaknesses that put Vietnam behind Southeast Asian neighbors in the latest tourism competitiveness index.

Vietnam ranked 59th out of 119 economies on the biennial Travel and Tourism Development Index released by the World Economic Forum last month, down seven places from 2022.

Vietnam's overall score for this year's ranking was 3.96 out of seven points, down 0.14 points.

Nguyen Tien Dat, CEO of Hanoi-based AZA travel company, said he "feels sad" as the country's tourism industry has made great efforts but still fallen in the ranking.

Industry insiders like Dat claim that this year's rankings are "inaccurate" on Vietnamese tourism's capacity.

The ranking was largely based on new WEF data at the time of collection late last year while many Vietnamese policies such as visa relaxation only took effect from August 2023, he said.

Several other Southeast Asian countries also dropped in the ranking.

Thailand whose economy heavily relies on tourism growth fell by 11 places to 47th, Singapore inched down four places to 13th and Cambodia also dropped by 16 places to 85th.

Experts admitted that Vietnam's tourism industry still has many weaknesses compared to other countries, such as infrastructure and the quality of tourism services.

Pham Hong Long, a tourism expert from Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanity, said after the pandemic, many countries in the region offered policies that prioritized tourism development earlier or stronger than Vietnam.

Since tourism reopening, Thailand has deployed a series of measures from waiving visas for major economies, reducing airfares and cutting taxes to spur tourism recovery.

Poor infrastructure remains a big challenge for the tourism industry, Long added.

Vietnam's infrastructure in recent years has changed positively in terms of rail and road with the opening of new expressways that help shorten travel time from HCMC and Hanoi to popular tourist destinations.

But the country’s two largest airports Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat is still overloaded, so air transport infrastructure in the ranking received a low score.

Singapore is doing very well with its infrastructure with the air transport infrastructure index ranking 4th in the world, after the UAE, the U.S. and Spain.

Long also pointed out the service supply chain in Vietnam now remains loosely connected because "everyone does their own thing without cooperation."

Good connectivity in Thailand's tourism is reflected in cheap tour prices.

Pham Ha, CEO of luxury cruise operator, said there were four main criteria for making a country's tourism attractive: natural landscape, cuisine, culture and people.

Vietnam has all the criteria a tourist needs, Ha said.

But after the pandemic, people are more concerned about security and safety, therefore, for the tourism industry to increase its competitiveness as well as its ranking in the WEF rankings, Vietnam needs to reshape its national tourism strategy, he said.

One factor to become a high-class destination is ensuring there is no "overcharging or cheating tourists," which the country sometimes has problems with, he said.

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