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|Sapa is a must-visit destination in Vietnam. - VNA/VNS Photo Huong Thu|
In the modern world it just took a few clicks online and a whole world of hospitality choices appeared before her eyes.
She is one of the 71 per cent of the 13 million visitors to Vietnam last year to arrange all her travel online.
These are the figures released in a survey on tourists carried out by Vietnam E-commerce Association (VECOM).
But the results also reveal as most of the online booking agents are based outside of Viet Nam, local businesses need support to keep up.
“We had never experienced Airbnb abroad together so we just want to try. Staying overnight with friends in one room seemed to be fun,” she told Vietnam News.
“In Sapa, as there was no Airbnb, so we chose a hotel with a beautiful mountain view through booking.com,” she said.
Arriving in the nation’s capital, she booked a homestay in Hanoi via airbnb.com.
Detailed information was what Bow embraced the most.
Even simple things like a hairdryer in the room helped her choose where to stay.
Among nearly 13 million tourists visiting Vietnam last year, Bow obviously was not the only one using Internet as a nifty gadget for preparing.
Google and the Singaporean Temasek Holdings firm predict the industry’s sharp development in Southeast Asian, from US$21.6 billion in 2015 to 89.6 billion by 2025.
With 50 million people having access to the internet in Vietnam, accounting for more than a half of its population, the country’s share is about 10 per cent, approximately $9 billion.
But 80 per cent of the market share is taken up by international websites such as agoda.com, booking.com, traveloka.com and expedia.com, according to the survey.
These platforms enable Vietnam’s tourism enterprises, mostly small and medium ones, to approach potential customers and to compete with foreign companies in a fairer playground.
About ten Vietnamese companies have joined the game including ivivu.com, mytour.vn, chudu24.com or tripi.vn. In reality, their efforts have only satisfied 20 per cent of the domestic demands.
As international businesses have exploited the market for more than 20 years and achieved the worldwide reputation, domestic companies need the support of capital and policies to keep up with them in this competition and make a breakthrough to gain more market shares.
Tran Vu Binh owns a homestay on Ha Noi’s flagship street of Trang Tien. Graduating from hospitality college in Switzerland, he dreams to operate a stay on his own. Airbnb.com is a magic wand making his wish come true.
“If not airbnb, there are still several other platforms where you can share information of your stay services. These platforms encourage people to travel more while reducing the cost of accommodation and travel in the same way ride-sharing services like Grab or Uber do,” Binh said.
According to AirDNA, a market survey site of Airbnb data and insights there are nearly 5,300 active homestays in Ha Noi and other Northern provinces listed on Airbnb with the occupancy rate of 62 per cent, as of December 2017,
Binh’s homestay, for instance, welcomes mostly tourists from Western countries, accounting for 70 per cent.
“Low prices, close connection with accommodation providers and essential utilities are unique selling points of homestaying,” Binh explained.
“We target young people who want to explore more with limited budget. Our direct rivals are hostels and small hotels. We create pressure, forcing them to improve their quality and offer more seasonable prices,” he added.
The emerging trend of online tourism becomes a momentum for Viet Nam’s agencies to change.
Last month, Vietnam Tourism Agency officially launched the new tourism promotion website at Vietnam.travel.
Dinh Ngoc Duc, head of the agency’s department of tourism market, said the website provided not only information of local beauty spots but also offered virtual reality experiences giving tourists first-hand experiences with their destinations.
Since November 2017, visitors to the central coastal city of Da Nang have been able to easily access all tourism-related information via a smartphone-based app called Danang Fantasticity, which incorporates a smart chatbot.
Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy director of HaNoi Redtours agency said besides promoting tour packages, they paid attention to tighten privacy for customers paying online.
Regarding policies, tourism is among prioritised economic fields in the wave of Industry 4.0, said Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in May, 2017. From 2017, citizens of 40 countries and territories can get e-visas to Viet Nam.
“Distances between customers and services providers in tourism may be very far. Innovations help to shorten this gap, approach more potential customers and save promotion costs,” he said.
As travelling connects people and lands, technology is becoming a middleman bringing tourists and agencies closer.