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Tourism promotion in Vietnam: NATO is the name of the game

In this age of Internet slang, NATO does not merely stand for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but also “No Action, Talk Only,” an attitude many industry insiders strongly agree best describes the way Vietnam promotes its tourism.

In this age of Internet slang, NATO does not merely stand for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but also “No Action, Talk Only,” an attitude many industry insiders strongly agree best describes the way Vietnam promotes its tourism.
In this age of Internet slang, NATO does not merely stand for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but also “No Action, Talk Only,” an attitude many industry insiders strongly agree best describes the way Vietnam promotes its tourism.

The term NATO is now common among Vietnamese travel firms whenever they are asked about the country’s tourism promotion efforts, the director of a major tour organizer has told VnExpress  newspaper.

“NATO is the abbreviation of ‘No Action, Talk Only’ and it’s how Vietnam promotes its natural beauty,” he said.

Thomas Joseph Brenner, a Canadian tourist, wondered why a country with many beautiful spots like Vietnam would launch so few international promotional campaigns.

Brenner brought the question to a VnExpress  journalist when they were both attending a field trip on the Gam River in the northern Vietnamese province of Ha Giang two months ago.

“His question sounded like a complaint to me,” the VnExpress  journalist recalled.

The Ha Giang excursion was also the first Vietnam trip for Brenner, who is married to a Vietnamese woman.

The Canadian said he had at first only agreed to travel to Vietnam to please his wife, as he then had little interest in a country he did not know much about.

But that attitude changed after Brenner was wowed by the marvelous natural beauties in Vietnam. This was also when the Canadian began wondering why Vietnam had failed to introduce its wonderful image to the world.

To industry insiders, it is not a big surprise to see the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) maintain its “NATO approach” in giving the country’s tourism a boost.

While a foreign broadcaster like the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is willing to film a live program to showcase beautiful Vietnamese landscapes to millions of viewers in the U.S., such a move could hardly be expected from the Southeast Asian country’s tourism authorities.

ABC will air the live coverage on its flagship program “Good Morning America” this Wednesday.

You may then wonder, what will Vietnam do to lure international tourists this year?

The answer is to attend travel fairs, according to The Saigon Times Online, which cited a list of tourism promotional activities for 2015 the VNAT has recently distributed to tourism departments and travel firms countrywide.

Vietnam will showcase its tourism at nine travel fairs in Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, China, the UK, the Philippines and Russia, and launch three promotional campaigns in Indonesia, Japan and China, according to the list.

The country will also welcome media travel trips from West Europe, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan.

While the VNAT still banks on travel fairs to attract international tourists, many travel firms told The Saigon Times Online that attending such events is no longer a good choice.

“Tour organizers now tend to attend fewer overseas travel fairs to cut costs,” the director of media of a major tourism firm in Ho Chi Minh City said.


The sparsely decorated booth of Vietnam at the 2013 IBT Berlin Convention in Germany.

Vietnam wastes its chances at international tourism fairs while hindering vacationers with complicated visa rules, as industry insiders name more reasons to explain why the country has seemingly become less attractive to tourists worldwide.

Attending such leading travel trade shows as the ITB Berlin Convention is a precious opportunity for any country to give its tourism industry a boost.

But Vu The Binh, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Travel Association (VITA) and former head of the VNAT, has said Vietnam always throws away its chance to boost the country’s tourism despite its frequent attendance at high-profile international tourism exhibitions.

“Vietnam used to open one common booth for its travel agencies and airlines at the ITB Berlin Convention, but the way it was organized was always unscientific,” Binh told VnExpress  in an interview in March.

Vietnam welcomed 690,440 international tourists in April, a 7.4 percent decline from a year earlier, according to the VNAT.

It was the 11th straight month Vietnam posted a drop in international tourist arrival numbers.