Tactics bulked up to meet tourism targets

February 16, 2023 | 16:22
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With a target of $28.3 billion in revenue, contributing 5 per cent of the country’s GDP, Vietnam’s tourism sector needs a clear strategy if it is to have a successful 2023.

While servicing a record 101 million domestic tourist trips last year, the target of 102 million domestic tourists and eight million international tourists this year is challenging.

“The pent-up tourism needs in the domestic market segment during the pandemic are possibly satisfied. With competitive offerings beyond our borders, nationwide tourism businesses will face more challenges in reaping the same results as 2022. To intensify the situation, worries of the economy getting worse could urge people to reduce spending on travel,” said Phuoc Dang, market analyst at travel researchers Outbox.

Chinese, Russian, Indian, and South Korean tourists are always keen to visit Vietnam but industry experts note the complexities in them doing so in recent times. In addition, while it is difficult to find local restaurants that can cook Indian food, Korean and Chinese-speaking staff are also hard to recruit.

Tactics bulked up to meet tourism targets
Travel agencies in Hanoi have picked up pace since last summer

According to Dang, Chinese tourists are usually Vietnam’s largest inbound market, but the recovery will only start from March, and it will depend on the financial capacity of the Chinese people. For Vietnam, the return of the Chinese market will be even slower than that of other destinations, such as Europe or Japan.

According to a recent report by HSBC, the arrival of around 3-4.5 million Chinese tourists could be available if flight constraints can be solved and visa entry requirements eased further.

“Despite slowing trade, there are still pockets of resilience in Vietnam’s economy. Tourism will be key in 2023. Following its reopening last March, Vietnam’s domestic tourism has been roaring, but international tourism, which historically accounted for 60 per cent of tourism, saw a tepid recovery. That said, there are good reasons to expect a more meaningful recovery after China’s reopening,” the report said.

Aiming at higher spending guests, many travel agents said that their main focus was on guests from Europe, the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

“We will focus on the sources of visitors with high spending and long-term travel itineraries in Vietnam. At the same time, we attend to international event industry visitors in combining tourism and specialised conferences and seminars. Our target markets are the US, Australia, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and China,” said Doan Thanh Tra, director of Marketing and Communications at Saigontourist.

Edgar Cayanan, general manager of Ambassador Cruise in Halong added, “Many of our international guests would like to make long multi-destination trips, especially if they come from afar like the US and Europe. So, if not only the visa waiver period increases but also multi-entry is allowed, it will be significantly helpful to boost high-spending.”

According to the HSBC report, compared to peers, visa-free access remains relatively tight in Vietnam. For now, Vietnam does not have visa exemptions for major markets including China, the US, and Australia, while exemptions for some European markets allow travellers to stay up to only 15 days. But this is likely to change with the visa waiver period increasing to 30 days and the issuance of electronic visas for citizens from all markets.

The next step is to brush up and diversify Vietnam’s tourism products. HSBC suggests moving into sports tourism. Alongside other areas, such as medical and agricultural tourism, related development projects will be key in supporting the world’s interest to travel to Vietnam.

“Granted, the relatively nascent market means that there is significant room to improve in terms of the package tour arrangements and coordination among service providers,” the report said.

International hoteliers are also bulking up their portfolios. According to HSBC, the supply of high-end accommodation continues to grow, with the number of 4-5 star accommodations rising 12 per cent per annum on average pre-pandemic. Post-pandemic, a number of major global hotel chains including Accor, IHG, and Marriott have been announcing their plans for expansion.

“Marriott currently operates 16 hotels and resorts in Vietnam, following a record year of expansion in 2022 when we launched six new hotels and added two new brands to the country. We also expect to launch Vietnam’s inaugural Westin resort in Cam Ranh soon,” said Jakob Helgen, Marriott International’s area vice president for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Earlier this year, Xavier Cappelut, Accor Vietnam’s vice president of operations, told VIR that over 40 projects would be added to Accor Vietnam’s pipeline within the next five years.

And Rajit Sukumaran, IHG’s managing director in Southeast Asia and Korea, said the group will double their estate portfolio within the next five years. “Vietnam is an important market for IHG, and we have invested in Vietnam for the long term. We are building a robust ecosystem including a highly experienced in-market team and strong long-term partnerships to support that growth,” Sukumaran said.

Doan Thi Thanh Tra - Marketing and communication director, Saigontourist
Tactics bulked up to meet tourism targets
We expect that 2023 will see a strong recovery for tourism, especially the international segment, where the number of visitors by air and sea will increase sharply. To stay ahead in this market, since 2022, we have boosted international tourism promotion programmes and participated in major international tourism fairs and events around the world, meeting with and signing cooperation agreements with hundreds of partners.

In 2023, we will also focus on effectively utilising international cruise passengers of high-class shipping lines, and expanding the tourist market in Europe, the US, and Canada. We will focus on the sources of visitors with high spending and long-term travel itineraries in Vietnam. At the same time, we will attend international event industry visitors.

Jakob Helgen - Area vice president, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar Marriott International
Tactics bulked up to meet tourism targets
We are optimistic about the recovery of travel and tourism in Vietnam. Our average room occupancy rate in the fourth quarter of 2022 was close to the 2019 level, and we expect to see continued growth in 2023. This outlook will be strengthened with the expansion of flight capacity.

We welcome any news of the government supporting the travel industry, which makes it easier for travel to Vietnam. In 2023, we continue to look at primary markets such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, India, and China.

We expect high-demand during peak holiday periods in popular leisure destination such as Danang, Phu Quoc, and Nha Trang, and we will also pay special attention to up-and-coming destinations, such as Lang Sơn, Can Tho, and Haiphong, as we consider the future expansion of our Vietnamese portfolio.

Thi Quoc Duy - Director of Independent Travel Centre, BenThanh Tourist
Tactics bulked up to meet tourism targets
We are recording many positive signs in the market. The number of inquiries sent to us increased twice compared with the same period last year. There have been a number of bookings for April holidays and other travel seasons in the year.

Our guests these days tend to book tours early and often choose tour programmes designed for small groups of guests such as family groups, close friends, and emphasise safety, privacy and comfort during travel. Customers have very high requirements for service quality and meaningful travel itineraries.

In particular, the experience needs to be diverse and unique, and destinations are more cultural and natural oriented. Travellers are willing to pay higher fees to get the best services and the perfect experience for their trip.

Edgar C. Cayana - General manager Ambassador Cruise
Tactics bulked up to meet tourism targets
Since June 2022, our occupancy has reached 80-90 per cent, and we are adding capacity with additional investment. From mostly domestic guests since October last year, we have seen the multinational segment slowly coming back. Our guests came from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and further afield.

We are very proud of Halong Bay as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and will do everything we can to deliver the best service. The advantage for having a cruise with us is that we have good food quality, top-notch facilities, and world-class service. We can also provide entertainment on the boat depending on the guests we are servicing.

While Vietnam is excited to welcome more guests, many other countries are eager as well, so we need to support each other for the common goal.

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I appreciate the efforts of the Vietnamese government in supporting businesses, but the authorities can and should do more to further develop the economy.

By Hong Nhung

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