Amid a slowdown in the world economy in 2019 and increasing trade tensions among leading economies, the government has nonetheless turned tourism into a spearhead economic sector contributing to the country’s economic growth.
Vietnam welcomed an estimated 18 million international tourists, up more than 16 percent from 2018. The number of domestic travelers also rose by 6 percent to 85 million. The tourism sector earned more than VND720 trillion, up 16 percent on a yearly basis.
Reflecting intense efforts by government and business, Vietnamese tourism has continually improved its competitive capacity and has ranked 63rd among 140 countries and territories on the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report. Vietnam has received many other reputable mentions, including as the World’s Leading Heritage Destination 2019 and Asia’s Leading Culinary Destination 2019. Investment in tourism increased in both quantity and quality with major groups like VinGroup, SunGroup, BIM, CEO undertaking landmark projects. So far, there are 166 five-star hotels and 291 four-star hotels in Vietnam, including prestigious hotel brand names.
Although it got off to a slow start in the first months of 2019, the tourism sector forged ahead with innovations, implementing directions from the government, and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to fulfill its targets for the number of domestic visitors, international travelers and tourism revenues this year. The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism assessed this was an important achievement and a breakthrough for the tourism sector. The average growth of tourists and in three consecutive years (2016-2019) was at 22 percent a year, putting Vietnam among the 10 countries with highest tourism growth in the world. In the ASEAN region, Vietnam has surpassed Indonesia to climb to the fourth place in the number of international tourist arrivals.
New communication strategy
Despite its improved standing and attractiveness, Vietnam’s tourism sector has been warned of challenges ahead. Speaking in December at the Vietnam Travel and Tourism Summit in Hanoi, Kenneth Atkinson, Vice President of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) said, despite the leading position of Vietnam’s tourism in Southeast Asia, the return rate of foreign visitors to the country remains low, including that of high spending tourists. Particularly, the impressive growth of domestic tourism has brought challenges and pressure on the government, ministries and sectors for sustainable and efficient development.
Global economic growth and international trade are forecast to continue their downward trend in 2020, as is global unrest. Increasing trade protection, fierce competition among major economies, non-traditional security challenges, natural disasters, epidemics, climate change, and cybersecurity crime are expected to affect the tourism sector. Therefore, in order to improve the return rate of foreign visitors, Vietnam has to improve tourism service quality, make changes in its visa policies, improve transit capacity, and cooperate more actively with international airlines to open direct flights to Europe.
Gareth Ward, the British Ambassador to Vietnam, said at the summit that Vietnam needs to promote digitalization in tourism to improve online interaction with potential tourists and develop risk management policies for European tourists. In addition, many experts advised a concerted joint effort by various sectors and localities to improve tourism product and service quality. Therefore, Vietnam has to map out development strategies of destinations in each locality along with preservation of local tourism products there.
As for the VNAT, it has recently launched a new communications campaign called #VietnamNOW to promote tourism to the world in 2020, with an updated perspective of Vietnam for foreign visitors. Director General of VNAT’s Tourism Marketing Department Dinh Ngoc Duc said the campaign spotlights exciting experiences and world-class products that Vietnam offers visitors, alongside its renowned natural beauty and rich historical and cultural attractions. “Vietnam holds countless possibilities for travelers to enjoy and explore. We want to celebrate the best of travel in Vietnam today through the #VietnamNOW message,” Duc said.
Vietnam expects to welcome 20.5 million foreign tourists in 2020, serve 85 million local visitors, and earn an
estimated VND830 trillion in revenue.