Saturday , May 25 2024

Vietnam tourism achieves targets but challenges persist

Though the tourism industry achieved all its targets, 2023 was not a particularly successful year for it, with the recovery rate much lower than that of countries in the region.

The number of foreign visitors this year is estimated at 12.5 million, far above the target of eight million.

The number of domestic tourists is 108 million, also above the target.

Tourism revenues are estimated at VND672 trillion (US$27.6 billion), equal to 93% of the 2019, pre-pandemic, figure, according to data released by the Vietnam National Authority of Tourism.

But analysts said it was not really a successful year for the tourism industry.

Nguyen Tien Dat, CEO of Hanoi-based AZA travel company and vice president of the city Tourism Club, said it is necessary to look at the recovery index to evaluate the success of tourism.

Vietnam’s tourism recovery rate is only 44%, and he said: “That number is low.”

Malaysia has completely recovered to pre-pandemic levels, receiving over 26 million visitors this year.

Thailand welcomed more than 24 million visitors, a 75% rate.

Pham Ha, CEO of luxury cruise operator Lux Group, pointed to these figures and said Thailand and Malaysia “have good recovery strategies.”

“We lack short-, medium- and long-term strategies.”

This year many tourism businesses laid off staff and scaled down operations amid the gloomy economic situation and some popular tourist destinations like Phu Quoc faced crises.

Once a top holiday destination, the island suffered a slump in tourist arrivals, especially during national holidays, as tourists rejected soaring airfares, exorbitantly priced hotels and various scams.

The number of daily arrivals was 160,000-170,000 in the first half of this year, but it decreased by 30-50% in the last three months.

The slump in demand even caused the suspension of flights to the island from Da Nang, Nha Trang and Can Tho.

The number of domestic tourists this year exceeded the target, but many preferred short trips to nearby destinations to avoid expensive airfares.

Bright spot

The highlight of Vietnam’s tourism this year was its visa relaxation policy.

In August the country started accepting online visa applications from citizens of all countries and territories, and issued visas valid for 90 days and multiple entries.

It also tripled the duration of stay in Vietnam to 45 days for citizens of 13 countries unilaterally exempted from visas.

South Korea topped the list of countries sending tourists to Vietnam followed by the U.S., Japan, Thailand, and Singapore.

Future plan

Dat said Vietnam should open more tourism promotion centers in key markets such as the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

“Thailand is doing this very well with 29 representative offices globally.”

Vietnam’s current tourism promotion campaigns in the international market are still “limited” and “uninteresting,” he pointed out.

The majority of visitors coming to Vietnam depend on travel reviews by TikTokers and social media influencers, he said.

“Many of my customers say that they know about Vietnam’s destinations through watching tourism videos posted by TikTokers and travel bloggers and not from Vietnam’s official promotion channels.”

High-quality human resources in the tourism industry is also an urgent requirement, he said.

After the pandemic many outstanding tourism workers quit the industry, leading to a shortage of human resources.

Ha said Vietnam should soon map out a tourism strategy for next year.

“Thailand outlined a clear strategy for next year in November. We still do not have a clear strategy, making many businesses worried.”

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