Expanding and developing tourism markets to Vietnam

Wednesday, 2017-03-15 10:04:26
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Foreign visitors in Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa
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NDO - The national tourism sector has seen a dramatic growth in the number of foreign tourists since early this year, which is a joy for the industry but also raises the problem of how to expand and develop international tourist markets to ensure sustainable growth.

According to the General Statistics Office, Vietnam received more than 2.2 million foreign visitors in the first two months of this year, an increase of 33% compared to the same period last year.

The country also welcomed nearly 1.2 million international visitors in February this year, up 19.1% over January and up 42.2% over the same period in 2016, a record increase in the number of foreign visitors in a month.

According to Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, February is also the second consecutive month when Vietnam received more than 1 million foreign visitors in a month. Earlier in January, the country also received more than 1 million visitors, up 23.6% over the same period in 2016.

The satisfactory results are expected to create motivation for the tourism sector to become a spearhead economic sector of the country.

However, the structure of international visitors to Vietnam in the last two months revealed an imbalance, requiring the tourism sector to acknowledge and make forecast to actively put forth action plans.

Statistics showed that Asia is the biggest tourism market of Vietnam in the first two months with more than 1.5 million visitors, up nearly 40% over the same period in 2016.

Chinese tourists occupy the largest proportion with more than 651,000 arrivals, up 77.7% over the same period in 2016. Visitors from the world's most populous country accounted for nearly 30% of total international visitors to Vietnam and was nearly double the number of European visitors to Vietnam in the past two months (378,000 visitors).

The number of Chinese visitors was also 3.6 times higher than the number of visitors from America at 179,000 and more than 8 times higher than the number of arrivals from Oceania.

These figures demonstrated that Vietnam has been quite successful in attracting international visitors from China - the largest market that any country wishing to develop tourism needs to pay much attention to. It is forecast that visitors from China to Vietnam will continue to rise in the future.

It can be seen that the boom in the number of Chinese visitors to Vietnam has brought about larger profits for the tourism sector, particularly for Ho Chi Minh City and some central provinces. However, too rapid and "hot" growth of the Chinese market also raises many issues that the tourism industry needs to address as the domestic tourism infrastructure and tourism resources including tour guides and accommodation are not developed enough to meet the increasing demand.

If the number of visitors from Chinese market is too large, beyond the capacity of local service and tour operators, the quality of tourist services will decline.

There were cases where Chinese travel agencies hid behind Vietnamese travel agencies to organise tours to earn profits for themselves, or the use of Chinese tour guides in Vietnam, leading to the distortion of Vietnamese history.

Thus, tourism policymakers need to balance the needs of visitors and the capacity of the domestic tourism sector to effectively manage tour quality for this rapidly growing market.

Despite the sharp increase in the number of Chinese visitors to some central southern provinces, the number of visitors from key established markets including Western Europe and North America has decreased - which is the high-end segment of tourists with high levels of tourism expenditure.

For example, Khanh Hoa central province posted tourism revenue of VND8.3 trillion in 2016, up 20% compared to 2015 and 1.1 million foreign arrivals, up 18% over 2015, but the increase was mainly from Russia and China. Meanwhile, visitors from established markets such as England, France and Australia tended to decrease from 10% to 30%.

There is no accurate basis for the cause of the drop in number of visitors from these markets, but the tourism sector should be aware of the significance of meeting the diverse needs of many types of visitors, to ensure sustainable tourism growth and to avoid dependence on a single market.

This dependence will not only lead to price pressure and price devaluation from tourism partners, but also poses dangers for the domestic tourism sector in case of abnormal changes.

Dr. Tran Du Lich said that localities and travel companies need to take the initiative in receiving visitors and to enhance professionalism in providing tourism services. It is necessary to build specific tours and special programmes for different visitors to attract visitors from various markets.

Thanks to preferential policies for tourism development including visa simplification and visa exemption along with the changes of tourism agencies and localities, international tourists to all regions of the country are growing. Besides China, there are many fast growing markets such as the Republic of Korea, Taiwan (China), Japan, the US, and Russia.

The number of visitors from five countries in Western Europe with visa exemption including England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain all showed steady growth. This proves that these are ideal markets for Vietnamese tourism to attract in order to ensure stable and sustainable tourism growth.