Tourism strives to become spearhead economic sector

Sunday, 2017-01-29 12:58:15
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NDO – The year of 2016 witnessed significant achievements for Vietnam’s tourism sector with the country welcoming in a record number of 10 million visitors, an additional two million visitors in comparison to the previous year.

Seizing opportunities

In regards to inflight entertainment services, instead of featuring a dark screen with a golden lotus – the symbol of the national flag carrier- appearing every few minutes or delivering short reports of the flight’s itinerary, Vietnam Airlines has now provided passengers on board with a ten-minute programme advertising Vietnam’s tourist sites located throughout the country.

This is not a new method of promoting tourism, but this time however it has been done in a more professional manner to promote the land, culture and people of Vietnam, thus conveying a stronger message to anyone on board travelling to Vietnam to visualise the country in their mind.

According to statistics released by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the country received around 1 million foreigners in 1994; the figure increased fivefold in 2010 and tenfold in 2016. The hospitality sector also set a record increase of 20% in the number of international visitors against 2015.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien said that the welcoming of its 10 millionth foreign visitor was an event of significance in the 56-year journey of the country’s tourism development. The event also created a foundation for the sector to strive to become a spearhead economic sector, welcoming 15 million foreign visitors and contributing 10% to the country’s GDP by 2020.

Experts have agreed that tourism has established itself as an economic sector with the fastest growth speed around the world. It also generates a main source of income for many developing countries. The sector’s revenue has exceeded revenues from oil and gas, food and manufacturing industries. In 2015, international tourism generated US$1.5 trillion in export earnings, representing 7% of total world exports and 30% of services exports. The sector has maintained growth in international tourist arrivals of 4.6% annually. It has also contributed to creating jobs for other relevant sectors such as construction, agriculture and telecommunication as about one in every eleven workers is employed in the tourism sector.

Vietnam possesses rich potentials regarding both natural conditions and a rich cultural background to develop tourism. The country’s tourism sector has maintained a high growth rate in 2016 with total revenues of around US$11 billion and a 9.5% growth in international tourist arrivals. In 2015, the sector contributed 6.6% to the national GDP and generated US$8.5 billion in export earnings, representing 4.91% of total world exports and 65% of service exports.

The Government has transformed tourism into a spearhead economic industry which is set to account for an increasing proportion of GDP and create a driving force for socio-economic development.

Changing the mind-set for development

Members of the board of directors for the project on developing tourism into a spearhead economic industry have voiced their concerns about the guidelines and principals in developing tourism. As Vietnam’s tourist products have been formed based on the the country’s available natural resources and cultural background, they are not yet interesting enough to attract visitors while lacking competitiveness against those provided by other countries in the region.

The board’s members stressed the necessity of a change in the mind-set for developing tourism in order to reach the target of turning it into a spearhead economic industry. They suggested applying advanced technology in creating tours and managing tourist activities; while developing more types of tourism, such as medical travel and health care tourism for the elderly, spiritual tourism, and MICE (Meetings Incentives Conventions and Exhibitions) tourism, which are suitable with the country’s available potentials.

They also emphasised the need to reach a common awareness that developing tourism is the responsibility and obligation of the State, businesses, citizens and the whole community. To do so, they have been called on to beef up communication work in order to raise public awareness among every citizen in the country.

A friendly cultural and social environment is also vital to developing tourism. Natural landscapes as well as cultural and historical monuments are not the reason for visitors to return to Vietnam but the charm of the culture and the friendliness of the people are key factors to leave positive impressions on visitors.

Dr. Phung Duc Tung, Director of the Mekong Development Research Institute, who has undertaken a number of initiatives on boosting tourism, proposed to develop unique tourist products which face less competition from other countries in the region. He cited medical travel and health care tourism for the elderly as an example, arguing that the demand for this type of tourism has increased recently due to the aging population in the world, particularly in Europe, Japan, the Republic of Korea and China.

It costs a Japanese elder around US$5,000 a month to receive residential care at a nursing home. By receiving one million of such elders and offer a price of US$2,000 per month, Vietnam could earn US$24 billion per year. However, this type of tourism requires good investment in medical and healthcare services as well as well-trained nursing staff.

Tung also suggested developing tourist products targeting the wealthy, which are currently not popular in Vietnam, with a focus put on the billionaires and politicians – who are willing to pay generously for first-rate services. Vietnam has huge advantages regarding natural landscapes to develop this type of tourism. Six Senses Resort, the first five-star resort which was put into operation in Con Dao island, Ba Ria – Vung Tau province and has hosted many Hollywood stars despite its price of hundreds of million VND per night.

It can be said that while many sectors and economic industries face less room for development, the potential for the tourism sector remains huge for further development. The target of turning tourism into a spearhead economic industry is realistic in accordance with the country’s situation as well as the common trend in the world today.

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