ROUNDTABLE: Seeking a boost for inbound tourism
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh chaired a tourism recovery conference on March 15 and talked to management agencies and tourism businesses about removing obstacles for the industry to thrive once again.
Despite being one of the first Southeast Asian countries to fully reopen to international tourism after the pandemic, Vietnam's tourism industry still trails other countries in the region.
The PM raised a series of questions about tourism promotion, competitive advantages, products, and visa policies – all factors that are considered to be subjective causes for Vietnam's tourism to fail its foreign tourism targets thus far.
"Tourism cannot develop alone, and tourism cannot develop if culture and the entertainment industry do not develop," PM Chinh said.
He directed the tourism industry to build green and sustainable tourism products, finance tourism activities, and develop plans to compete with other tourism markets.
|Stakeholders have much to say about the current state of the tourism industry, and what must be done|
In 2022, after reopening in mid-March, the number of international tourists to Vietnam only reached 70 per cent of the set plan, at about 3.5 million visitors. The country's tourism recovery rate was only 18.1 per cent for the year, while Thailand, which opened its doors at the same time, had a recovery rate of 22 per cent and other countries like Singapore and Malaysia hit 30.9 per cent and 27.5 per cent respectively, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.
According to the Tourism Development Index 2021 released by the World Economic Forum in May last year, Vietnam's tourism ranked 52 out of 117 economies, up eight places compared to 2019, making it one of the world's three biggest improvers after Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. However, it has not yet been able to capitalise on a promising pre-pandemic direction.
Head of the Secretariat of the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) Hoang Nhan Chinh, said the financial health of some businesses has been at an alarming level since 2020. "International tourism not only generates a large source of revenue from tourists, but also creates more jobs, brings foreign currency to the country, helps achieve the balance of payments, and keeps exchange rates and macro-economy stable" said Chinh.
Meanwhile, many experts believe that restrictive visa policies make Vietnam less attractive to international tourists (see Page 23).
"Vietnam's visa policy is disadvantageous in terms of the number of countries exempted from visas, the issuance of e-visas, and their duration and form. Without appropriate and flexible adjustments, it is very likely that we will continue to lag behind," said Sun Group chairman Dang Minh Truong.
Chinh of TAB suggested, "The tourism industry should pay special attention to visa facilitation, including e-visa and visa exemption. It is also necessary to create favourable conditions to open more international routes directly from key markets to Vietnam and vice versa."
He also suggested that it is necessary to soon promote the application of face recognition technology and passport readers to facilitate entry and exit management.
According to Johnathan Hanh Nguyen, chairman of Imex Pan Pacific Group, resort tourism and experience tourism are the two most developing types in Vietnam, but health tourism and shopping-entertainment tourism are two new types with the potential to develop and increase the spending ability of tourists.
"However, Vietnam is still very limited in developing this area, and countries with a developed tourism industry are using the factory outlet model to attract tourists, and increase tourism spending and revenues," he said.
For example, the abundance of shopping centres and the convenience of VAT refunds for international visitors have helped Singapore attract a large number of visitors for the main purpose of shopping tourism.
Elsewhere Thailand, a country with many similarities in natural conditions with Vietnam, has also focused on shopping tourism with a full range of models from mid-range to high-end commercial centres in city centres. It also boasts duty-free shops on the streets, street food models, and many other special retail activities such as fashion markets.
"If Vietnam has all kinds of quality shopping tourism, we will keep foreign exchange reserves in the country because there would be many more products for international visitors to spend their money on," Nguyen said.
In 2023, Vietnam's tourism industry aims to welcome 8 million international visitors. In the first two months of this year, the number of international visitors to Vietnam reached 1.8 million.
Tourism is being considered as a spearhead economic sector and a smokeless industry that will be heavily promoted in the future. Therefore, Vietnam is looking for more breakthrough solutions to accelerate recovery towards sustainable development, especially when it has to compete with many other countries in the region.
"According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, in 2030 we are expected to welcome 35 million people, but Thailand will reach 80 million visitors by 2027. If there are no breakthrough solutions now, Vietnam's tourism will always be behind in this race," said Vu The Binh, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association.
With the desire to contribute more voices to promote the development of the tourism industry, Vietnam Investment Review will host a seminar on March 22 on seeking a boost for inbound tourism. It will feature the participation of experts from leading management agencies and businesses across the tourism sphere.
The event will be live-streamed from 8.30am on VIR's website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel, including on vir.com.vn, baodautu.vn, and tinnhanhchungkhoan.vn.
ROUNDTABLE: Seeking a boost for inbound tourism
Time: 8.30am-12.00pm; March 22, 2023
Address: Vietnam Investment Review, 47 Quan Thanh street, Ba Dinh district, Hanoi
|Building products that suit visitor needs|
Nguyen Van Hung – Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism
There are a number of reasons why the number of international visitors to Vietnam has not yet reached expectations, although the tourism sector has made great efforts to prepare for the reopening of the international tourism market.
The connection and exploitation of new markets and potential markets have not been active. The implementation of activities to promote and provide information about Vietnam's tourism to the world has not been carried out in a regular and continuous manner.
Secondly, the visa policy has made many innovations and progress, but compared to other countries, it is still modest.
Thirdly, tourism products have not caught up with the current trend of the world, and have not taken advantage of natural resources, especially cultural resources. The development of advantageous tourism products in Vietnam has not been paid attention to, and has not yet approached the needs of tourists.
In addition, human resources for tourism have been lacking since the pandemic, with a shortage of skilled and experienced workers. The effectiveness of links between regions, localities and industries is also still low, and many joint activities are still formal. Tourism products are not really diversified or attractive enough to some tourist markets in the new context.
The tourism sector aims to welcome eight million international tourists and 102 million domestic tourists in 2023, with a total revenue of about $28.2 billion.
We have also issued a marketing strategy on Vietnam's tourism development to 2030. Most recently the ministry held the ASEAN Tourism Forum and Travel Exchange Fair in Indonesia and ITB Berlin Fair 2023 in Germany, with 700 MoUs signed and negotiations held between the Vietnamese business community, tour operators, and international friends to commit and bring international visitors to Vietnam.
|Diversifying products and experiences|
Nguyen Viet Quang – General director, Vingroup
In order to realise the commitment to bring high-class service and excellent experience, the constant development of new products combining relaxation, entertainment, discovery and attractive sports is required meet the diverse needs of visitors.
Vinpearl, belonging to Vingroup, is a pioneering enterprise and actively responds to the development policies and solutions of the government and the tourism industry. We currently have 45 facilities in 17 provinces and cities nationwide, with room capacity of over 18,500 hotel rooms and villas. We also offer new products to catch up with world trends such as wellness, 5-star resort travel, and the events industry.
In addition to a methodical investment strategy in products and services, Vinpearl also actively develops potential international tourist markets, creating a new driving force for Vietnam's tourism.
In the past, in addition to traditional markets, Vinpearl has begun to exploit new sources of visitors from South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand and has achieved positive results thus far.
We hope that with the efforts of Vinpearl and businesses to diversify and renew products, it will contribute to bringing Vietnam's tourism to a new level.
|Aviation can transform via tourism|
Le Hong Ha – General director, Vietnam Airlines
In the first two months of 2023, domestic air transport increased by 12.5 per cent compared to 2020, which is a good indicator, continuing the growth momentum in 2022. International air transport by the end of February 2023 is also much better than in 2022, returning to 64 per cent compared to before the pandemic.
Vietnamese airlines have now reopened all international routes, including new routes to the likes of India and the US However, international tourists are still low in number, so the utilisation factor of Vietnamese airlines on international routes is only around 60-65 per cent.
Therefore, aviation needs to have a strong and close association with the tourism industry, and needs a unified, methodical, and long-term strategy. We recommend that there should be a solution to welcome tourists with an open entry and exit policy and develop a national tourism initiative.
We are organising many activities to promote Vietnam's tourism in 2023, taking advantage of the opportunity to celebrate diplomatic relation milestones between Vietnam and many countries around the world, such as Japan.
|Stronger visa policy|
Tran Doan The Duy – Vice chairman, Vietravel
The loosened immigration policies in key markets of South Korea and Japan have resulted in numerous tourists visiting Vietnam, with over 763,000 South Korean visitors and 146,600 Japanese visitors in 2022. China's recent reopening could also soon lead to a rapid increase in the number of Northeastern Asia tourists in 2023.
Due to the continuous opening of new direct flights and fascinating tourism promotion activities from the Vietnamese tourism board and embassies, target markets like India and the Middle East are expected to grow rapidly.
However, even though the pandemic has gradually recovered, the threat of global recession persists, which will have a direct impact on the Vietnamese tourism industry. Therefore, the tourism and hospitality industry needs to prepare strategic plans for any downturn situation in order to reduce business economic losses.
With the purpose of creating the most favourable conditions for international visitors to Vietnam, Vietravel proposes several suggestions related to Vietnam's visa policy. It should consider increasing the visa exemption period for visa-exempt countries from 15 days to 30 days. It could also expand the visa exemption policy to the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and other targeted markets. Consideration can also be given to extending the e-visa policy to markets like Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, and Israel.
|More focus on luxury tourists|
Nguyen Thi Nga – Chairwoman, BRG Group
BRG Group currently operates many world-class hotels and resorts and is managed by the world's top international corporations. We also have the strength of combining hotel tourism with golf. Therefore, our main target now is tourists with a pay rate 2-3 times higher than the average rate of international tourists coming to Vietnam, from $200-300/day and usually staying 3-4 days.
If revenue is taken into account, 10 per cent VAT and 20 per cent excise tax according to Vietnam's current regulations is high compared to the rate of 5-7 per cent of other countries in the region. We hope the government will study this to adjust this tax rate accordingly to attract more tourists.
Besides that, the tourism sector needs to diversify products and improve the quality of tourism services to bring high efficiency.
In 2022, BRG Group's hotels welcomed 652,000 guests, and in 2023 we want to welcome 1 million luxury guests. Last year, 300,000 rounds of golf were played on BRG courses, and the target for 2023 is 380,000 rounds.
Priority should be given to investment in infrastructure development, building cultural and tourism identities for each locality and each region. As for the visa issue, we suggest increasing the duration from 2 to 4 weeks for guests who have more time to travel and want to spend more money.
Apple Thy – Country manager Traveloka Vietnam
We are cautiously optimistic to see how tourism will gradually recover. We also appreciate the Vietnamese government's effort to help accelerate the recovery of the tourism sector.
Traveloka's internal data captured a positive trend during the Black Friday campaign recently. The total transaction volume on the platform increased by 1.5 times compared to the previous month; the volume of hotel bookings and the number of Xperience tickets sold also increased by 1.5 times.
The campaign also attracted the participation of more than 1,000 partners, of which hotel partners recorded a 2.5-fold rise in total bookings compared to October 2022. At the same time, the outbound travel trend is returning more confidently through the number of bookings to foreign destinations increasing by 1.5 times compared to the previous month.
Therefore, Traveloka will continue to collaborate with various provincial tourism boards to attract both domestic and international tourists to come to Vietnam and enjoy various travel attractions in local destinations.
Traveloka will also continue to encourage stakeholders to work together and ensure a sustainable growth of local tourism. We have demonstrated commitment in the tourism revival in Vietnam by forming strategic partnerships with tourism departments in Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Kien Giang province, and Haiphong, for example, to promote local destinations and enhance tourists' travel experience.
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