Since March 15, China has officially put Vietnam on the pilot list to open tourism in groups. What does the recovery of visitor flows from this market mean for Vietnam's inbound tourism?
|Pham Hai Quynh, director of the Asian Tourism Institute and chairman of the Vietnam Community Tourism Chapter |
In 2019, the tourism industry welcomed 18 million international visitors, including 5.8 million visitors from China. This destination also welcomes about 4.5 million Vietnamese tourists, topping the list of favourite tourist destinations of overseas Vietnamese.
I hope the opening will make the China tourist market quickly recover, but the current barrier is not on the Vietnamese side.
After returning home, Chinese tourists are required to take a PCR test at the border gate. If the result is positive, they will have to be isolated in Vietnam until they recover from the disease. The high risk cost has made many tourists hesitate to travel.
In addition, after more than two years of complete closure, products for Chinese customers were also interrupted.
Many businesses are rushing to restore operations, build new products, and design more quality tours to take advantage of the opportunity to welcome Chinese tourists back.
What products should the tourism industry focus on developing to attract more visitors, especially high-spending tourists, in the context of inbound markets showing signs of recovery?
Each customer market will have a unique need. Chinese tourists love shopping, Indian tourists have a need for food and services, while European tourists love local values. Each travel and tourism unit should choose a key customer group to prepare product lines that suit their needs.
Many studies show that after the pandemic, tourists tend to travel in small groups, preferring to experience values of nature and culture. Vietnam has a diverse natural landscape and rich cultural identity. I think that the products of community tourism, ecotourism, and agritourism will be the trend in the new period beside the resort tourism product which was the previous strength.
Currently, community-based tourism is also not a cheap form of tourism because many tourists from Europe and domestic high-class tourists are paying more attention to the community's cultural values. Existing community-based tourist sites must also meet standards of service, landscape, and preserve indigenous cultural values to be eligible to operate.
The group of luxury guests will bring a large source of foreign currency revenue, but in order to invite guests to come, it must be accompanied by other reasonable policies including visa issues, products, and service quality. I think the tourism industry needs to invest in building and promoting high-class shopping centres, world-class golf courses, resorts, and modern amusement parks for the entertainment needs of high-income customers.
The tourism industry in some Southeast Asian countries is offering new strategies to attract international visitors. What does Vietnam need to do to not be left behind?
Each country has its own development strategy. For Thailand, the tourism story is the balance for economic development, so the Thai government is ready to support businesses and subsidise airfares, hotels, and travel to attract tourists. That part of the subsidy will be recovered by the state through the services that tourists use.
For Vietnam, we need to adjust the visa policy towards more openness, subsidising services, and fully exploiting the values that tourists bring. Technology 4.0 is also a big challenge for travel agencies, requiring them to digitally transform to provide the best quality services.
The story of human resources has also been a challenge for many years. Although the number of trained tourism personnel every year is considerable, only 20-30 per cent can currently meet the requirements.