With international arrivals, mostly from China, slumping over the past month due to tension over an illegal Chinese-owned oil rig placed in Vietnamese waters, local tourism officials convened on Tuesday to discuss solutions to lure back holidaymakers.
The East Vietnam Sea tension has had a negative impact on the country’s tourism industry, particularly because it relies on a large number of Chinese arrivals, Vo Anh Tai, general director of Saigontourist, commented at the meeting in Ho Chi Minh City.
Chinese holidaymakers accounted for nearly 2 million out of the 7.5 million international arrivals Vietnam received last year, according to figures from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.
But tourists from the Chinese-speaking markets are canceling their booked packages to Vietnam, representatives of local tour organizers said.
China has illegally stationed its drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 within Vietnamese waters since May 1 and repeatedly ignored requests from Vietnam that it leave the country’s continental shelf.
China moved its illicit oil rig on Tuesday but the new location of the facility remains in Vietnam’s waters.
Vietnam is also experiencing declining tourist arrivals from Thailand, which is in turmoil after the military seized power over a coup last week, according to industry insiders.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism thus organized the meeting, attended by HCMC’s tourism department and city-based tourism associations and travel agencies, to work out solutions to deal with the situation.
Some travel agencies suggested Vietnam launch campaigns, with information delivered in English and Chinese, to let the world know that Vietnam remains a safe and friendly destination.
The campaigns should particularly target Chinese-speaking markets like Hong Kong and Taiwan, said Bui Viet Thuy Tien, director of travel firm Asian Trails.
A representative from Quoc Thai Travel Co said the Vietnamese government should cut visa fees for Chinese-speaking tourists to encourage them return to Vietnam.
The country should also make use of social networks to inform global tourists and international travel companies that Vietnam is still a safe destination, added Tran Van Long, general director of Viet Media Travel.
La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, suggested inviting journalists from Southeast Asian nations, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea to attend fam trips to have first-hand experience of a safe Vietnam.
Most of the meeting attendees also agreed that Vietnam should try to focus on new markets such as Japan and India rather than just China and Thailand.
Tai from Saigontourist proposed that Japanese and Indian tourists enjoy lower visa fees when traveling to Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Khanh, deputy chairwoman of the HCMC Tourism Association, called on the government to consider exempting visas for tourists from potential markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, India, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, France, Spain, and Brazil.
Vietnam welcomed 3.84 million international tourists in the first five months of this year, according to the General Statistics Office.