Vietnam is known as a land of Smiles and “Timeless Charm”.
Over the last 10 years Vietnam’s foreign visitor arrivals have increased from 3.583 million to 7.943 million however the increase in 2015 over 2014 was only 0.9%. The biggest inbound markets were China – 1.78 million and South Korea 1.12 million. Interestingly they were also the top 2 inbound markets in 2006. This compares to 29.8 million foreign visitors to Thailand in 2015 of which 7.9 million were Chinese.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council tourism (direct and indirect) contributed US$ 16.4 billion or 9.3% of GDP. This percentage is similar to that contributed by tourism in Thailand.
However with a coastline of over 3200 kilometers (excluding islands) and 7 natural and cultural world Heritage sites, Vietnam has far more untapped potential and the industry as a whole suffers from a lack of financial and policy support. A good example of this is the amount that Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has to spend on destination marketing is little over US$ 1 million when countries in the region competing for the tourism dollar like Thailand and Malaysia spend over US$100 million. Cambodia Vietnam’s neighbor, with half the number of visitors spends more than 3 times the amount Vietnam spends on marketing.
Visa policy is another hindrance to attracting visitors, although there has been some recent progress in this area. Vietnam only grants visa waiver or exemption to citizens of 22 countries, 5 European Countries having been granted visa waiver last July to add to the ASEAN Countries, Nordic Counties, Japan, Belarus and Russia. Whilst there is an online visa application system there is no E Visa per se and applicants have to queue and pay for visas on arrival. The costs were high but were reduced by almost 50% late last year with a 30 day tourist visa now being on a par with Cambodia at US$ 25.
This article will be continued next week.