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|Tourists walk in an ancient street of Hoi An Township.-VNA/VNS Photo Minh Duc|
The PM emphasised that Viet Nam's tourism should focus on building its brand, service quality and sustainable development, while preserving cultural values, the environment and tourist safety.
Phuc said tourism administration agencies should make rapid changes in their awareness of the tourism industry's needs in promotion, planning and management.
"The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will play a key role in boosting tourism development with a target of hosting 15 million foreign tourists and 75 million domestic visitors, creating revenues of between US$29 million to $32.5 billion in 2016-20," Phuc said.
He urged the ministries and agencies to prepare well and plan a "green industry" strategy to meet the rapid growth of tourism.
The PM also said the Government has assigned the ministry of Public Security to build an e-visa programme with a total investment of VND200 billion (nearly $9 million) to be launched in early 2017.
He also agreed that the government would provide initial funds of around VND300 billion ($13.3 million) to establish the Tourism Development Fund to help the smooth development of tourism.
At the meeting with over 400 participants, the PM asked embassies, trade representatives and the ministry of Foreign Affairs to seek opportunities for tourism promotion and advertisement at international exhibitions and fairs.
He stressed that the 2017 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) Summit in Da Nang next November will provide a major opportunity to introduce Viet Nam to thousands of diplomats, managers, media and friends from different countries.
Phuc also urged the Ministry of Transport to open more international routes to create bridges from Viet Nam to the rest of the world.
Speaking at the conference, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Nguyen Ngoc Thien said poor promotion and advertising campaigns and a lack of famous international destinations are seen as big challenges for tourism reaching its 2020 targets.
"Despite revenues of VND338,000 billion (US$15 billion) in 2015, Viet Nam's tourism only invested a modest $2 million in promotion and advertisement of national destinations," Thien said, adding that tourism contributed 6.6 per cent of GDP in 2015.
"In the first seven months of this year, the country hosted 5.5 million foreign tourists and 38.2 million domestic visitors, a 24 per cent growth in comparison to last year, earning VND235,000 billion ($10.4 billion) with a 23 per cent increase," Thien reported.
Thien, however, said the tourism industry still displayed poor performances in developing significant destinations and international standard eco-tourism sites.
He said management at travel sites and tourism environment was seen as a weak point with poor quality control, service, illegal travel service providers as well as poor forecasting of tourism development.
The minister also said human resources for tourism have yet to meet the demand, while lacking co-operation among ministries and agencies still obstruct tourism growth.
Thien also asked the Government to provide visa exemptions for more countries (currently 22 countries), noting that Thailand provides free visas for tourists from 61 countries; Malaysia 155; the Philippines 157; Singapore 158 and Indonesia 169.
He said visas still limit travel to Viet Nam to 15 days, while an e-visa service has yet to be applied.
He stressed that Viet Nam has yet to set up representative offices of tourism aboard.
Thien called on the Government to create more favourable policies to develop international tourism brands, including such sites as Phu Quoc, Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh, My Khe beach in Da Nang and Ha Long Bay.
He also warned that the surge of Chinese tourists has a big impact on the tourism development policy of many countries, not only Viet Nam.
According to Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), the country hosted more than 1.2 million Chinese tourists in the first six months of 2016, a quarter of the total number of international tourists.
According to a global tourism competitive capacity report by the World Economic Forum, Viet Nam's tourism ranked 75th out of 141 economies.
In comparison to ASEAN countries, Viet Nam has fared poorly in terms of prioritising tourism, visas, open-door policies and sustainable environmental development.
Oil refinery visit
Meeting with leaders of Quang Ngai Province on the same day, Prime Minister Phuc said while there are many industrial zones in the region, the province is still a locality with high a proportion of agricultural production. Thus, it's necessary that local authorities focus on developing the agriculture sector in the area, including the processing industry.
Phuc said there was still tardiness in shifting the structure of the local agriculture sector, and budget collection in the province was still low on average.
He also said that while the average income per person in Quang Ngai Province is higher than the average of the country, this largely depended on the Dung Quat Oil Refinery.
Phuc suggested that local authorities review their transport infrastructure planning so that it best profited local residents. The province also needed to play a role model in closing their natural forests, he emphasized.
On the same day, Prime Minister Phuc paid a visit to Binh Son Oil Refining-Petrochemical Company in Quang Ngai Province.
Binh Son Company is the operator of the Dung Quat Oil Refinery Plant.
Nguyen Hoai Giang, chairman of the board of directors of Binh Son Company, informed the Prime Minister about the operation of the plant since it went into operation seven years ago, saying that the plant has produced more than 41 million tonnes of various products and submitted VND130 trillion (US$5.7 billion)to the State budget.
Giang said the company would soon try to increase the capacity of the Dung Quat plant from 6.5 million tonnes to 8.5 million tonnes.
Prime Minister Phuc praised the Dung Quat Oil Refinery Plant for its achievements and highly applauded the efforts of the company's leaders to protect the environment. Phuc said this could be a role model for other industrial projects in Viet Nam.