Foreign tourists experience ethnic community culture in northern mountainous Sơn La Province. VNA/VNS Photo

Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính on Wednesday urged the tourism sector to develop a national tourism brand and make Việt Nam “a safe, friendly, attractive, humane, hospitable and convenient destination".

He was speaking while chairing the national teleconference on the rapid and sustainable development of Vietnamese tourism.

He said, thanks to the participation of the entire political system, businesses, people, and the cooperation of international friends, Vietnamese tourism has recovered and developed after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, total revenue from tourism was estimated at VNĐ495 trillion (nearly US$20.5 billion), an increase of 2.75 times compared to 2021.

In the first 10 months of this year, Việt Nam welcomed 99 million domestic visitors and 10 million international tourists, exceeding the 2023 target of 8 million visitors.

Total revenue from tourism in the 10 months reached VNĐ582.6 trillion.

The Cabinet leader said Việt Nam has advantages and opportunities to develop tourism, citing favourable factors such as stable politics, security and order; synchronous infrastructure; majestic, beautiful, diverse and rich nature; rich and unique national culture identities; and hospitable and creative local people. Việt Nam has also maintained international relations and signed free trade agreements with many countries and major partners.

However, many problems still exist, making the number of visitors and tourism revenue fall short of expectations, for example, tourism products are not truly unique and do not meet the high-quality market segment.

"We have not hosted international cultural activities associated with world-recognised intangible and tangible heritage in order to promote and build a brand for domestic tourism," the Prime Minister said.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyễn Văn Hùng said international arrivals to Việt Nam have not met expectations because some of Việt Nam’s traditional key tourism markets which resumed operations late after the pandemic have not fully regained the growth rate.

Việt Nam faces difficulties in connecting and exploiting new and potential markets while we still keep slow pace in resuming international flights, he said.

He said the Government should approve short-term visa exemption for tourists from a number of high potential, large-scale markets such as China and India to stimulate tourism demand, especially in the low season.

The minister proposed unilaterally expanding visa exemption for citizens of countries with a higher level of development than Việt Nam and large tourism spending such as Australia, Canada, the US, and the remaining countries in the European Union.

He also proposed considering visa issuance at border gates based on on-site personnel approval for international tourists and piloting long-term visas of three-five years to attract high-end tourists and retirees.

Lê Hồng Hà, general director of national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, said that after the pandemic Việt Nam’s air transport growth is still at a low level.

By the end of May 2023, the international air transport market recovered 97 per cent compared to the growth rate before COVID-19. The growth rate in the Asia-Pacific region is 73 per cent, while Việt Nam maintained 72 per cent.

To reach the goal of 50 million international visitors by 2030, there is a lot of work to do in the next seven years, he said, proposing updating the National Tourism Development Strategy.

“We must take into consideration Việt Nam’s competitiveness compared to other destinations in the region, to build a suitable growth rate. We must pinpoint the country’s competitive advantages to make Việt Nam a regional destination,” he said.

Vũ Thế Bình, president of the Việt Nam Tourism Association, said Việt Nam lacks tourism collaboration among ministries, businesses and regions.

During COVID-19, we made great connections among tourism types and opened markets.  At that time, everyone shared experiences, combined with each other, connected every product to create a direction for development. Even when COVID-19 wreaked the most havoc, the tourism industry still existed. But when COVID-19 was over, those efforts and connections seemed to disappear. Unhealthy competition and price hikes returned, he said.

PM Chính highlighted the tourism development direction in the future, which focuses on rapid and sustainable growth. Tourism must create motivation to promote the development of other industries and fields, while forming a domestic and international tourism value chain is necessary.

Vietnamese tourism’s rapid and sustainable development must go hand in hand with open institutions, smooth infrastructure and smart management, he said.

He urged the sector to create a unique Vietnamese tourism brand based on human resources, nature and historical cultural traditions, while boosting professionalism, and developing the sector extensively and intensively. VNS