Removing bottlenecks to attract foreign visitors to Vietnam
The domestic tourism industry served approximately 72 million local holidaymakers during the initial six months of the year, already exceeding the target for the year. However, only 954,600 foreign arrivals came to the country throughout the reviewed period, representing nearly 15% of the set target of receiving five million foreign visitors this year.
Attraction behind the target
Cao Tri Dung, chairman of the management board of the Vietnam TravelMart, explained that the recent emergence of several sub-variants of the Omicron virus has led to some major markets of the domestic tourism industry slowing down.
“The Republic of Korea, for instance, had planned to relaunch air routes to Vietnam, but the plan was adjusted in the last minute following the detection of new COVID-19 strains in the country,” said Dung.
In addition, according to the executive, China, which is traditionally one of the country’s largest markets, is continuing with its zero-COVID policy, meaning it has yet to open its borders to international visitors.
Japan and Taiwan (China), both of which are also traditional tourism markets, have already eased travel restrictions, although they have yet to fully reopen their borders due to further COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Another reason that hinders Vietnam luring more foreign visitors is that major regional rivals such as Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have offered better visa policies than ours,” Dung confided.
Concurring with Dung’s view, Pham Hai Quynh, general director of Van Hai Xanh Travel, pointed out that the open-door policy introduced by several countries, including Vietnam, is not transparent enough in attracting foreign holidaymakers.
“Vietnam announced a decision to reopen its borders in mid-March 2022, but this does not mean it immediately attracted visitors as soon as the decision came into effect, because foreign visitors required a specific roadmap for such endeavor,” said Quynh.
Furthermore, the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with high inflation driven by rising fuel prices, has also changed people’s expenditure habit, thereby causing many people to tighten their belts.
Seeking ways out
Vietnam typically welcomes a high influx of foreign visitors during the peak season which lasts from September to April of the following year. However, Dinh Ngoc Duc, director of the Tourism Market Department under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, was not optimistic about this year’s peak season.
“Most of the markets in Northeast Asia that account for nearly three fourths of international visitors to Vietnam are still tightening pandemic prevention and control measures that will accidentally affect our plan to receive the visitors,” stated Duc.
On the bright side, the country remains an attractive destination for foreign visitors. Statistics indicate that despite the modest number, the average growth rate of international visitors throughout the initial seven months of the year was quite high at 62% per month. In addition, the number of searches for accommodation and international airlines to the nation grew by about up to 75%.
“Whether or not foreign visitors return to destinations depends a lot on products and services we offer to them,” Duc elaborated, “To enhance its competitiveness, the tourism industry should also further improve the quality of its human resources, resources management skills and tourism infrastructure as well as the business climate along with introducing packages of attractive products that cater to visitors’ tastes.”
In order to meet its target of welcoming five million foreign visitors this year, experts suggested that the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism reconnect all markets with open policies for people to travel abroad, including Europe, the US, and Australia, in addition to emerging markets like the Middle East and India.
Moreover, it can be considered necessary to introduce synchronous solutions on products, improve service quality, and popularise its ‘Live fully in Vietnam’ programme in multi-dimensional platforms, along with on-site promotion programmes, they said.