Mr. Nguyen Van Tuan, Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), tells VET of the recovery in the tourism sector over recent months and its targets for the remainder of the year.
The number of tourists visiting Vietnam has shown signs of recovery since July. What specific figures have been recorded of late?
We experienced a tough period as the difficult economic circumstances resulted in the number of foreign visitors falling over the last seven months of 2014 and the first six months of this year. In the last three months, however, the numbers have been better. In July an estimated 593,566 foreign visitors came to Vietnam, an increase of 12.1 per cent against June and 5.1 per cent higher than in July last year. In August some 664,985 foreign visitors arrived, an increase of 12 per cent over July and 7.5 per cent higher year-on-year. In September, meanwhile, the figure was estimated at 626,324, a decline of 5.8 per cent against August but 8.3 per cent higher than in September 2014. From January to September, therefore, the tourism sector welcomed 5.68 million foreign visitors, a fall of 5.9 per cent against the same period last year. The number of local tourists increased, though, to almost 49 million, of which 23.4 million stayed overnight at least once, bringing total revenue from tourism to VND270 trillion ($12.16 billion).
After 13 months of continual decline, what lies behind the recovery?
The most direct and influential reason is the government policy of waiving visa requirements for citizens from five European countries. The number of visitors from the UK increased 16 per cent, Spain 9 per cent, Italy 25 per cent, France 8 per cent, and Germany 15 per cent.
These increasing numbers partly made up the steady decline in visitors from China. It should also be mentioned that higher-spending visitors appear to be on the rise, which is a good sign.
Do you think the target of 8 million visitors for this year can be reached?
The closing months of the year are the peak season for tourism and there a positive signs of recovery being seen. If the level of the recovery stays as it has been over the last three months then visitor numbers over the remaining months may be enough to cover the fall in the first six months. From the numbers so far we predict Vietnam will welcome 7.8 million visitors this year, which would be equal to the 2014 result. Even if the target of 8 million is not reached, the current trend indicates we are emerging from a difficult period.
What will the tourism sector do to keep foreign visitor numbers rising over the remaining three months of the year?
The visa waivers are having the right effect and VNAT will continue to propose that visa requirements be waived for 19 other focus markets, especially those that are high spending.
At the moment these visa waivers are only for travel of 15 days, so there is an issue in attracting European visitors as they tend to go on longer holidays. VNAT will propose the 15-day limited is extended.
We will also continue to implement advertising and promotions to stoke demand, focusing on major markets with high-spending tourists. For example, towards the end of the year VNAT will organize huge promotion campaigns in three large Chinese cities.
For the long term, in early 2016 VNAT will propose the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism extend the visa waiver term for the five European countries to help tourism enterprises be active in their promotional efforts. Surveys show that the majority of Western visitors to Vietnam continue on to Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos, or vice versa. VNAT is therefore actively cooperating to develop connections between Phu Quoc Island and Cambodia and Thailand and also on enhancing regional cooperation with connecting tours from northeast Thailand and Laos to Vietnam.
Vietnam has bolstered its tourism promotions in international media recently, producing tourism videos, etc. How will this strategy continue in the future?
This year VNAT is cooperating with the EU to make a 90-second video for broadcast on international channels and five-minute and ten-minute videos in several languages to use in tourism promotions. A contract for broadcasting a 30-second tourism promotion video will be signed at October 20 with the Travel Channel in the UK, costing $30,000. In general, the process of investment in tourism is more organized than previously.
VNAT will also provide the conditions for international movie makers to come to Vietnam. For example, Warner Bros has spent $150 million shooting scenes for a movie in Ninh Binh, Quang Ninh, and Quang Binh provinces.