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Long-standing problems persist as Vietnam recaps tourism performance in 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015, 12:11 GMT+7
Long-standing problems persist as Vietnam recaps tourism performance in 2015
Visitors are seen at a travel exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City.

Quality over quantity is what Vietnamese tourism authorities should keep in mind when formulating promotional plans for 2016, insiders said at a meeting to recap a tough year for the industry on Wednesday.

Vietnam served 57 million domestic tourists and welcomed more than 7.9 million international visitors in 2015, but there were still perennial problems that need solving, Nguyen Van Tuan, chief of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said at the event in Hanoi.

While Tuan did not refer to any comparison, data from the General Statistics Office show that Vietnam’s international arrivals in 2015 dropped 0.2 percent from a year earlier, the first decrease since 2009.

Nguyen Ngoc Thien, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, admitted that the number of international tourists to Vietnam is still modest, and challenged other attendees with a series of questions about the lower tourist number.

“Is it because our promotional campaigns are not properly undertaken, or because our competitiveness, service quality and tourism management are so weak?” he wondered.

“Or it is because we still fail to create a safe and friendly environment?”

Thien added that Vietnam has more than doubled its accommodation capacity since 2010, but the number of international tourists only rose 1.6 times in the same period.

“So why there are not so many international tourists choosing to spend their vacations in Vietnam in the past years?” he asked.

It is in fact not difficult for industry insiders to answer those questions.

“Vietnam has failed to improve its tourism competitiveness in comparison with other countries in the region and the world,” Tuan, from the VNAT, said.

Tuan added that investment in tourism promotion programs has not been sufficient and resources for tourism have been spread too thin.

“We still lack breakthroughs, creative and alluring products,” he said.

Vu Thi Thu Thuy, deputy chairwoman of the administration of the northern province of Quang Ninh, home to the world-renowned Ha Long Bay, said Vietnam is just unable to take advantage of its potential and natural resources to boost tourism development.

“We take all actions possible to promote tourism, but fail to do any task properly and effectively enough, which in the end leads us to nowhere,” she said.

Thuy elaborated that Vietnam has launched many tourism promotion programs, but the focus should be on quality rather than quantity.

“The investment in terms of finance and personnel in these campaigns is also not adequate, and we’ve failed to adopt an effective model of promoting tourism,” she added.

Thuy said Vietnam’s tourism competitiveness is even weaker than that of such regional countries as Laos and Cambodia.

“The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism should be the leader to help each province and city make the best use of their own potential,” she suggested.

Vietnam targets to receive 8.5 million international tourists, and serve 60 million domestic holidaymakers, in 2016, according to the VNAT.

The country also aims to increase its tourism revenue to VND370 trillion (US$16.52 billion) from the VND338 trillion ($15.07 billion) turnover this year.

In 2016, the government is also expected to establish a fund to exclusively finance tourism promotion campaigns, which the VNAT chief hopes will “create motivation and change” for the country to lure much more international visitors.

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