At last the Vietnamese authorities are waking up to the importance of Travel and Tourism as an economic sector and its growing contribution to GDP. In 2016 international visitor arrivals reached 10 million for the first time a growth of 26% over 2015. Domestic tourism also continued its rapid growth with over 63 million domestic travelers.
The top 5 inbound countries are China ( 2.7 mn +51%); Korea (1.5 mn + 38%); Japan (0.74 mn + 10%); USA (0.550 mn +12.5%) Taiwan ( 0.507 mn + 15.8%). As can be seen China, Korea and Japan account for 50% of inbound foreign arrivals.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism estimated that tourism contributes over 6% directly to GDP and indirectly 14%, however it is not clear how these figures are calculated.
Following the granting of visa exemption to 5 European countries in 2015 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK) visitors from those countries increased 18.7% in 2016. Only 7 countries registered higher growth and the 7 included Laos, Holland, Hong Kong and New Zealand whose total combined numbers only rose to 275,000. In February 2017 the Government implemented a trial e visa program allowing residents of 40 countries to obtain e visas on line but notable exclusions were Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Whilst there has been significant progress in facilitating tourism to Vietnam in recent times there is still a lot to do and the Government has laid out the outline plan to increase the contribution to GDP to over 10% by 2020, in Resolution 08 – NQ/TW.
The basic objectives of the Resolution are to turn Tourism into a “spearhead” economic sector by 2020 acting as a key driver for socio-economic development. The objective is also to attract 17-20 million inter\national visitors and 82 million domestic travelers contributing over 10% of GDP directly with a total revenue of US$ 35 billion with over 20 billion in foreign currency earnings creating over 4 million jobs.
One relatively painless way to help tourism development is to build on the recent high profile movie Kong- Skull Island, which was filed in Vietnam and features several of Vietnam’s heritage sights. Very few major movies have been shot in Vietnam and this has great potential and would be a great promoter for Vietnam tourism as Lord of the Rings was for New Zealand but to do this there needs to be a coordinated strategy that makes it easy for film makers to get all the licenses and permits required, through a “one stop shop”. 
 The writer is also Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board.