|At a press conference at the end of last year VNAT said Viet Nam welcomed 7.87 million foreign visitors, up 4 per cent from 2013, and also had 38.5 million local travellers, an increase of 10 per cent. — Photo VNA
Compiled by Le Hung Vong
The disparities in figures on international tourist arrivals released by the National Administration for Tourism (VNAT), the General Statistics Bureau, and the Immigration Department are posing difficulties to official agencies in assessing and drafting socio-economic policies.
At a press conference at the end of last year VNAT said Viet Nam welcomed 7.87 million foreign visitors, up 4 per cent from 2013, and also had 38.5 million local travellers, an increase of 10 per cent.
But figures released by the General Statistics Office showed that between November 1, 2013, and October 31 last year Viet Nam received 6.971 million foreigners and Viet kieu (Overseas Vietnamese), an increase of 5.7 per cent year-on-year, according to Sai Gon Economic Times newspaper.
VNAT said in the first half of 2015 international arrivals registered an 11.3 per cent year-on-year decrease, falling to 3.8 million, though many local governments reported growth in international arrivals.
The localities reporting year-on-year growth in international arrivals included major ones like Quang Ninh, Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Khanh Hoa, and Binh Thuan.
HCM City said it attracted more than 2.1 million foreign visitors, up 3 per cent compared to a year earlier.
The respective figures were 1.58 million and 8.8 per cent for Ha Noi, 228,000 and 5.3 per cent for Binh Thuan Province, 1.29 million and 2 per cent for Quang Ninh Province, 600,000 and 33.1 per cent for Da Nang city, 410,000 and 2 per cent for Khanh Hoa Province, 990,000 and 9.6 per cent for Quang Nam Province, and 136,000 and 33.4 per cent for Phu Quoc Island.
But a travel company executive in HCM City said not only the data on international arrivals but also many other figures from the tourism sector were inaccurate.
VNAT usually uses data from the General Statistics Office while cities and provinces collect international arrival figures from various sources like immigration, the hospitality industry, tourist sites, and travel firms and conflate them to arrive at the final results.
Some localities look for information about international visitors from major tourist companies. Some travel firms blamed the inconsistency in figures to the fact that local authorities wanted to have "positive" figures on their reports.
A businessman who used to be the director of a State-owned travel company said his old firm used to collect tourist arrival data by adding up figures reported by tourist companies, hotels, and tourist sites and as a result the final number of visitors was much higher than actual.
He said inaccurate data made it difficult for companies to evaluate the market and draw up development plans and for authorities to draw up good policies.
More cars on the road
Auto imports cost over $1.55 billion in the first half of the year, or more than the figure for the whole of last year, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.
In June alone the country imported 11,000 vehicles costing $345 million, up $18 million from the previous month.
Some 10,000 cars had been imported per month in the previous three months, and the growth is expected to continue in the second half of the year.
A surge is in fact likely given that Vietnamese like to buy cars in the latter part of the year, especially before Tet.
The number of vehicles imported from China, mainly trucks and specialised vehicles, has also been on the rise. Figures from the General Customs Department show 13,400 vehicles were imported in the first five months, a nearly 300 per cent rise year-on-year.
The increase in imports despite the global economic turmoil indicates that Viet Nam remains a promising market for the automobile industry.
But the rise in imports raises the question why locally-made automobiles are not as attractive, according to the Viet Nam Automobile Manufacturers' Association.
Local manufacturers would try their best to make their products more competitive rather than cede the market to imported brands, the association said.
The Viet Nam International Motor Show 2015 to be held in Ha Noi in mid-October is expected to further promote auto sales.
The organisers have said brands like Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Luxgen, Porsche, Renault, and BAIC will come to the event. — VNS