Huge potential for breakthroughs in Vietnam’s sea and island tourism

Monday, 2019-07-08 15:51:53
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A corner of the coastal city of Nha Trang. (Photo: NDO/Duy Linh)
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NDO – Summer is the peak season for sea and island tourism in multiple provinces and cities along Vietnam’s coast. If they are well-prepared in infrastructure, service systems and tourism promotion, it will be a great opportunity for a "golden season" regarding revenue, thus creating a breakthrough for Vietnam’s “smoke-free” industry.

Great potential,l but not yet fully exploited

The coastal city of Nha Trang (Khanh Hoa province) has organised a sea festival that lasted for nearly 20 days but its attractiveness to tourists has not decreased. Along the route from Cam Ranh International Airport to the inner city, long lines of vehicles carry foreign tourists to the attractive destinations of Nha Trang and Khanh Hoa. With such a huge number of tourists in last May, the figure is expected to continue to rise in the coming months.

According to the Khanh Hoa provincial Tourism Department, the 2019 Nha Trang Sea Festival attracted nearly 150,000 visitors, of which international visitors accounted for more than 38,000. The impressive figure proves the brand of Nha Trang Bay tourism, one of the most beautiful bays in the world. One among many factors that attracts tourists to Nha Trang at the beginning of the summer is because of its various cultural, art and sports activities with its own unique characteristics. This is also one of the issues posed to the Vietnamese marine tourism industry in diversifying tourism activities and renewing the destinations.

With a favourable location, only about 120 km from Ho Chi Minh City by road or two hours traveling by high-speed boats along the Saigon and Can Gio rivers, Vung Tau city has attracted a large number of visitors from connecting tours with Ho Chi Minh City. However, the number of foreign tourists to Vung Tau is quite small compared to domestic travellers. Mr. Linh, a local tourist service businessman, explained that Vung Tau is often crowded on weekends but at the peak of early summer, accommodation services are often overloaded, failing to meet the demand when tourists arriving suddenly increase. In Ba Ria - Vung Tau province, there is a diverse accommodation system for tourism. In addition to high-end resorts, hotels and motels, condotel has also appeared to offer more choices for tourists regarding accommodation. However, due to the uneven number of tourists at different times, accommodation supplies have not met the demand despite its diversity of forms, while some services also still lack professionalism, leading to a limited number of tourists to Vung Tau.

In the North, Co To island district of Quang Ninh province is also entering its summer peak season. It is a familiar destination for domestic and foreign tourists because of its pristine beauty and private spaces along white sandy beaches. Co To has been well-prepared for the summer season, with the number of guests staying able to reach thousands a day. Ms. Trang Dao, an owner of a local hotel, said: “It is a peak period with a huge number of tourists. We have multiple preparation options to best serve the customers' needs, including new tours and various travel services.”

The above mentioned places are just among some of the various attractive destinations on the map of Vietnam sea tourism, reflecting in part the diversity in the potential of developing Vietnam’s sea and island tourism. The nation has a coastline of over 3,200 km with nearly 50 bays, in which many of them are highly praised by the world, such as the UNESCO-recognised Ha Long Bay, Lang Co Bay (Thua Thien - Hue) and Xuan Dai Bay (Phu Yen). Vietnam’s sea and islands also have diversified and rich biological and ecological resources, especially in national parks, such as Bai Tu Long, Cat Ba, Con Dao and Phu Quoc, along with six biosphere reserves located in coastal mangrove areas in Can Gio mangrove forest, Cat Ba archipelago, the coastal areas of the Red River Delta, Kien Giang island, Cham islet and Ca Mau National Park.

These are strengths that result in the appeal of Vietnam’s sea and islands to both domestic and international tourists, not to mention that Vietnam’s coastal areas also have over 1,000 historical and cultural relics, 195 traditional folk festivals and more than 150 craft villages. Therefore, tourism services in the above-mentioned coastal localities have created jobs for millions of local residents. The most convincing example is Mui Ne (Binh Thuan province), from a disadvantaged and underdeveloped fishing village, now it has become the top destination for international tourists dubbed the "resort paradise" of Vietnam, thanks to sea tourism.

Tourism is one of five important marine economic sectors of Vietnam. According to the Institute for Tourism Development Research (under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism), in recent years, the revenue from the tourism industry in coastal provinces and cities accounted for more than 60% of the total revenue from the whole tourism sector. The number of international tourists to coastal areas has tended to increase continuously and now accounts for nearly 80% of the total passengers across the country.

A development vision is needed

The Vietnam tourism development strategy by 2020, with a vision to 2030 approved by the Prime Minister, defines tourism product development as the most important solution, in which giving the priority on the development of sea and island tourism products. With outstanding strengths, the sea and island tourism products in the future are expected to bring competitive opportunities to attract international tourists to Vietnam.

In recent years, a range of famous sea tourism sites have focused on calling for investment for tourism development. To increase attractiveness and competition, marine sports and entertainment services have been put into operation, such as sailing, windsurfing, boat racing, paragliding and hot air balloon service in Nha Trang and Da Nang, or a helicopter tour in Ha Long Bay. However, this development is still quite small and still not strong enough to create a boom to result in breakthroughs to Vietnam’s sea and island tourism.

An accommodation service business for tourists in Co To said that in the past few years, they invested in coastal wooden bungalows, but the project was stuck due to regulations on renting land, security and environmental protection. The problems that arisen forced the project to come to an abrupt end. It is also a common story when many ideas in tourism bring new and more diverse experiences to visitors but face difficulties when trying to implement them in coastal areas. In fact, even the tourists themselves have not received the worthy experience when participating in sea and island tours. Tourists come to Nha Trang - Khanh Hoa said that there are many beautiful destinations here, but a lack of promotional information, so it is difficult for them to choose the tours that offers them the most enjoyment.

Obviously, only when tourists have full information about events and destinations, will they be able to make the right decision and willing to spend money to be satisfied with their passion for travel. Promoting the attractiveness of tourism products in general and marine tourism in particular seems to be in a state of confusion regarding the implementation by both businesses and tourism managers themselves. Diversifying the types of tourism and entertainment activities is the right way and suitable to many localities, especially the sea tourism areas.

In order to further affirm the attractiveness and potential for international competition of Vietnam’s sea and island tourism, it is necessary to have a truly professional way with an overall direction, a clear development plan and a long-term vision for each locality and the whole nation to create new changes, thus affirming the value of Vietnamese sea and island brand on the international tourist map.