Devising sophisticated ways to develop Vietnam’s tourism

12:00 | 07/12/2018
The Vietnam Travel and Tourism Summit 2018 held in early December saw leading local and international experts gather to discuss the situation of Vietnam’s tourism development, including achievements made and challenges facing local tourism, as well as to plan strategies to boost the industry.
devising sophisticated ways to develop vietnams tourism
Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Le Quang Tung

At the first session entitled Potential Opportunities and Strategic Planning for Sustainable Development, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Le Quang Tung emphasised that Vietnam’s tourism sector is in critical need of restructuring.

“In 1990, the country received 250,000 foreign tourists while in 2017, it welcomed more than 13 million foreign and 73 million domestic visitors, meaning that within that period, the number of foreign tourists has increased 52 times while the number of domestic tourists has increased 72 times,” he said.

According to the report ‘Global Competitiveness’, Vietnam ranks just 67th out of 136 economies in terms of competitive capacity, occupying the fifth standing in Southeast Asia.

Tung stated that the challenges faced by Vietnam’s tourism industry include poor infrastructure, weak human resources, and low capacity for destination management and environmental protection. He added that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has approved a project to restructure tourism, which focuses on potential markets and developing human resources.

Speaking at the summit, CEO of AMICA Travel Ha Duc Manh claimed that in recent years, his agency has discontinued Sapa and Halong tours for Western customers because the destinations are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors, and therefore the authentic nature is being lost and the environmental problems are worsening.

Manh raised the question: "In 2018, destinations in Vietnam are already overloaded. How can we properly respond to the huge demands in 2025 as the number of foreign visitors is expected to increase to 30 million, and there are also huge numbers of domestic guests?”

“Developing tourism should not focus solely on attracting a large number of guests, but should be in line with its contribution to GDP, and how much it helps to boost Vietnam’s economy. Instead of having higher numbers of visitors, we should aim to draw visitors who are willing to spend more money to experience Vietnam,” Manh suggested, adding that the rate of visitors willing to come back to Vietnam is just 10 per cent, something that is of serious concern to those in the industry.

Furthermore, the complicated visa policy is also a factor that deters some foreign tourists from visiting Vietnam.

"I have introduced Vietnam to a lot of wealthy Americans, but they told me that if they come to Vietnam, they would need to apply for a visa, which is not required by Singapore or Thailand,” said Luong Hoai Nam, deputy general director at Vietstar Aviation Group, suggesting that Vietnam should extend its list of visa exemption countries.

In the session on December 6, themed Making Tourism a Spearhead Economic Sector of Vietnam, experts have made suggestions for Vietnam to map out a practical and effective masterplan for tourism development in the digital economy.

Talking about the importance of digital marketing, executive director of marketing of the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) Brent Hill emphasised that social media now has considerable influence across society, and digital marketing is a key tool for promoting a destination.

“People are becoming more and more interested in using social media and I think it will continue to be a major trend,” he told VIR.

Brent suggests that Vietnam should make full use of its celebrities as PR ambassadors on social networks.

“When we first went to Hong Kong, people there barely knew anything about South Australia. In 2017, we invited Chinese megastar Huang Xiaoming to be our global brand ambassador for 12 months. Since then we have gained 50 million visitors from China.”

He also recommends running international campaigns on brands by working with airline partners, as well as tourism ambassadors.

Assistant chief executive of Singapore Tourism Board Chang Chee Pey shared these opinions, saying that besides infrastructure and hardware, software which includes events and programming are also important ingredients to enliven a city, with the ultimate goal being to attract consumers.

“In the case of Marina Bay, we used the F1 race to draw worldwide attention. The idea of a night race would allow live viewership by European audiences, where the majority of F1 fans are based,” he added.

Today, with the development of technology, Singapore is making an attempt to reach out and empower every traveller with rich, relevant information so as to enable them to better enjoy and explore the country on the go.

“The One Singapore Experience vision has been delivered, giving a seamless end to end journey, supporting our businesses in creating immersive offerings and essentially creating authentic Singaporean moments,” Pey said, adding that the key outcome is to deliver convenience and tailored experiences at visitors’ fingertips, which is believed to truly differentiate Singapore.

As a result, Singapore’s International Visitor Arrivals in 2017 hit the historic height of 17.4 million, a 6.2 per cent on-year increase; and Tourism Receipts reached S$26.8 billion, up 3.9 per cent compared to 2016.

As visitors are now increasingly looking for personalised experiences, the tourism industry, especially in Vietnam, should keep visitors updated with timely, efficient and authoritative information which they can easily access.

Talking to VIR about his experience in Vietnam, Hill said, “Vietnam is a very beautiful country and is very popular with Australians right now. Australians love Vietnamese food, we love the big, bustling cities and are very comfortable diving in. I think for Australians, to show a real, authentic Vietnam is really important.”

“Vietnam is also perfectly located, right in the centre of Asia, very close to China and to Singapore. One thing that I have found really important is the air access from all parts of the world coming into Vietnam, with cheap air travel offered by Vietjet and Vietnam Airlines. When I came to Vietnam, it was very easy to get around by air travel, so this is working really well. This is an advantage Vietnam has over countries such as Australia,” he told VIR.

However, he also complained that when searching for information about Vietnam, it is unclear which information is credible, and sometimes there are no specific guides on particular places to visit. This may be a barrier for some travellers considering whether to visit Vietnam.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam admitted that with a modest budget of “a few million dollars”, Vietnam needs to rely on technology and the coordination of society to remain efficient at tourism marketing.

“First of all, it is a must that we ensure the quality of tourism. There should be different customer segmentations of different classes, but quality is the first priority. It is not as simple as increasing tourists’ average spending from $96 to $200, we must satisfy those who are willing to pay more for a better experience. Second of all, we should optimise the dramatic development of technology. Vietnam is planning to introduce “Smart Tourism” in the near future. We will build a platform connecting ordinary people with businesses and the government to create an ecosystem that helps boost the development of Vietnam’s tourism industry. While the long-term issues are yet to be solved, each of us is able to contribute to a better environment for travel and tourism,” DPM Dam said.

By Thanh Mai

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