Vietnam struggles to hit tourism target
Update: Nov 27, 2008
A decline in the number of foreign arrivals in Vietnam during recent months due to the global financial crisis will seriously hinder the tourism industry in achieving its set target of 5 million foreign visitors this year.

According to the tourism sector, the number of foreign visitors dropped alarmingly in June and this downtrend has continued since then.

By the end of October, the tourism sector had catered for a total of 3.6 million visitors during 2008, an increase of 3.5 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, it had recorded a growth rate of more than 15 percent during the first half of the year.

A sharp drop in the number of visitors from high-income countries, such as China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the US and Canada, has caused great concern within the tourist industry.

As visitors from those markets account for 40 percent of the total number of foreign arrivals, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT)’s Travel Department has referred to the current situation as “quite serious”.

The concomitant fall in hotel room occupancy is also worrisome. Many luxury hotels reported room occupancy rates of only 55 percent in the past ten months, 10-15 percent lower than the rate recorded during the same period last year.

“If this situation continues, it will be impossible for Vietnam to welcome 5 million foreign visitors, the target it has set for this year,” said VNAT deputy director Nguyen Manh Cuong.

Although the global financial crisis and economic recession are regarded the main culprits for the decline, there were additional factors behind drop in overseas visitors, including natural disasters, floods, weak infrastructure, and the low quality of guides and services provided by the hospitality sector, Cuong said.

Struggling in the current climate, both state-owned and private travel companies, including Hanoitourist, Saigontourist, Vietmark and Lotussia Travel, are striving to offer new products while also adopting new marketing strategies to attract new tourists. They have also been advised to explore new markets.

To help give impetus to the industry, the Government has agreed to provide VND 30 billion for a range of promotional activities.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has approved a plan to advertise images of Vietnam on the BBC and is planning to build on this approach by promoting the country’s natural beauty via other worldwide television channels.

The UN World Tourism Organization predicted that the global tourism industry would remain static during 2009 before rebounding in 2020 with 1.6 billion tourist arrivals.