VietNamNet Bridge – Viet Nam’s tourism sector has got off to a positive start this new year, with familiar destinations drawing in hundreds of thousands of visitors nationwide.



Do Dinh Hung, Director of the Ha Noi Department of Tourism, greets Thomas Bauche of Germany - the first foreign visitor to the capital city in 2017. – Photo: VNA/VNS




Thousands of foreign visitors flocked to the capital city of Ha Noi, the World Heritage town of Hoi An in Quang Nam Province, the Dong Van Karst Plateau in Ha Giang Province and Hue City in central Viet Nam.

On the last day of the year 2016 and the first day of 2017, the famed Ha Long Bay in the northern province of Quang Ninh welcomed 26,000 tourists, mostly international, while the coastline province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau received some 65,000 tourists, mostly from bordering southern provinces.

Nguyen Ngoc Hinh, Vice Chairman of the mountainous Sa Pa District, Lao Cai Province, said the homestay tourism model had been promoted heavily for the New Year’s Eve holiday. On the first day of 2017, 35,000 tourists had arrived in the district, a slight increase over last year’s figure.

Da Lat, a famous attraction in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Lam Dong, received more than 40,000 tourists for the New Year celebrations, one-fifth of them foreigners.

Ngo Anh Tuan, director of the Da Lat Discovery Company, said, “People now care more about agriculture, so farming tours have become attractive.”

Officials said efforts will be made this year to complete the draft for the amended Law on Tourism for submission to the National Assembly for review and promulgation.

Caution advised

Although 2016 was a year of unprecedented growth for the Viet Nam’s tourism sector, marked by a record number of international arrivals, there is no room for complacency, senior officials have cautioned.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism said at a year-end review conference last week that the encouraging achievements will enable further success this year.

Vu The Binh, Vice Chairman of the Viet Nam Tourism Association, said he was pleasantly surprised at the sector’s expectation-defying achievements.

The number of foreign visitors to Viet Nam in 2016 increased by a whopping 25 per cent compared to last year’s and exceeded the projected figure of 8.5 million by 1.5 million to reach more than 10 million.

The sector also recorded 62 million domestic tourists last year, around half of them staying overnight at their destinations.

Tourism revenues of VND 400.7 trillion (US$ 17.9 billion) last year marked a year-on-year increase of 18.6 per cent.

Notably, all these figures equalled or exceeded the targets set for 2020 in the national tourism development plan that had been approved by the Prime Minister. These included 10- 10.5 million international passengers, 47- 48 million domestic passengers, and total revenues of $17-18 billion.

This means that the sector has achieved set targets four years ahead of schedule, overcoming a recent downturn in international arrivals that lasted for more than a year – from May 2014 till July 2015, as a consequence of tension between Viet Nam and China following the latter’s illegal installation of an oil rig in Vietnamese waters.

According to Tourism Marketing Department, under the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), in just six years (2010-2016), the number of international arrivals to the country doubled to 10 million, while it took as many as 15 years (1994-2010) to go up from one million to five million.

In 2017, the tourism sector expects to welcome some 11.5 million of international tourists and 60 million of domestic tourists, and earn VND460 trillion ($20.2 billion) in revenue.

Better policies

Nguyen Van Tuan, General Director of VNAT, attributed the sector’s success to the hands-on guidance and keen attention it has received from the Party and the State, especially with the Politburo’s decision to turn tourism into a key economic sector. Well co-ordinated efforts to materialise the plan was also a factor, he said.

He said the Government will look at further streamlining entry procedures, the ‘open skies’ policy, and developing direct routes to key tourist markets. A fund for tourism development will also be established shortly.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Nguyen Ngoc Thien, emphasised that never before has Viet Nam’s tourism sector had such favorable conditions for growth. However, he also cautioned that the sector “must not rest on its laurels, become complacent with what it has achieved.”

He said the sector “must look into its weaknesses and find ways to improve”. Service quality, human resources, management of tourists and tour-guides were identified as the weaknesses, he added.

Binh of the Viet Nam Tourism Association said facilitative policies contributed materially to the sector’s successes last year. Without the unilateral visa exemption policy targeting visitors from the five Western European countries – an important market for Viet Nam – there would have been no tourism impetus, he said.

Last year, visitors from this region increased by 20 per cent, leading to a hike from other regions as well, he added.

Last year also marked the establishment of dozens of tourism departments, signifying localities’ serious intention to promote the sector.