The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) said Vietnam welcomed 8,482,379 international tourists in the first eight months of 2017, up 29.7 per cent from a year earlier. This is a good signal for Vietnam's tourism development. However, this sector is also facing challenges to keep tourist arrivals rising while maintaining service quality.
Vietnam's tourism status in figures According to VNAT, in 2016, Vietnam ranked fifth in international tourist arrivals in ASEAN with over 10 million arrivals, equal to 31 per cent of Thailand, 37 per cent of Malaysia, 63 per cent of Singapore and 83 per cent of Indonesia.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF)'s Global Competitiveness Report 2017, Vietnam ranked 67th out of 136 countries. In particular, Vietnam's strengths include cultural resources and business mission travel (ranked 30th), natural resources (34th), prices (35th) and human resources (37th). However, the country still had many low-ranked indicators: Environmental sustainability (129th), tourism infrastructure quality (113th), tourism industry priority (101st) and international openness (76th). Notably, government spending on tourism (114th) and entry visa requirement (116th) are the lowest among ASEAN countries. In addition, up to 70 per cent of international visitors to Vietnam show no intention or interest in returning. This indicates that Vietnam's tourism industry is currently facing many limitations which are holding back its tourism development and greatly affecting the country's overall economic development.
Lauren Kline, a US tourist, said: "Before coming to Vietnam, I went to Malaysia and Thailand. Although the scenery of these countries is not as beautiful as Vietnam, I enjoyed the joy and comfort of playing all day and night without having to fear price cheating."
Jessica Newby, an Australian tourist, said: "I learned on the internet and wanted to come to Vietnam for a holiday. But I had to go to the Embassy of Vietnam to submit my original passport and wait for up to four days with a visa granting fee of US$25. This is a hindrance to Vietnam tourism."
There are many reasons for international tourists' poorer assessments of Vietnamese tourism than many other countries in the region. Service attitude, discrimination between Vietnamese tourists and foreign tourists, and strict regulations get low ratings among international visitors.
Enhancing Vietnam's tourism image At a conference on orientations of developing tourism into a key economic sector, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said, "Vietnam's tourism industry has been running after quantitative terms, but it is now necessary to increase added value with higher quality products and services."
In recent years, accommodation facilities in Vietnam have increased considerably in quantity and quality. In general, they are not inferior to other countries in the region. However, some self-ranked hotels with substandard quality not only tarnish their prestige but also affect tourism service quality of Vietnam.
For that reason, in 2016, under the direction of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, and Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien, VNAT reassessed the quality of accommodation services in 15 provinces and cities, focusing on hotels of 3-5 stars.
Besides, supporting tourism infrastructure systems such as roads, transport means and public toilets need to be upgraded. In addition to complex traffic systems, swarms of motorcycles and traffic congestion which often upset visitors, the poor public transport system is also a minus point of Vietnam's tourism industry. In some other countries, they only need a few minutes to ask for traffic guides or search on Google to reach destinations, but in Vietnam, they can only catch taxi or have motorcycle to do that. There are no other options for them. This is a great inconvenience to tourists when they visit Vietnam.
Furthermore, the tourism sector should actively raise public awareness, especially at tourist destinations. Littering is quite common in Vietnam but it is unacceptable to many foreign visitors. The image of Vietnamese people also worsens in the eyes of foreigners when they refuse to queue at shop counters, say bad words or spit in public.
It is also important to raise skills for tourism workers and service providers at tourist destinations. Many foreign tourists think that the service attitude of Vietnamese is not professional, communication skills in English are not good and prices are not quoted or lack transparency. The poor tourism environment has left some foreigners perplexed and unconvinced.
On the other hand, strengthening management, security and order at tourist sites and other places in general are also important. Pickpocketing, theft and robbery are quite common at some tourist sites and, as a result, many foreign victims do not want to return Vietnam next time.
The tourism sector must first of all have effective measures to make the tourism environment healthier to boost its image in the eyes of international friends.
(Source: VCCI News)