HA NOI — Viet Nam is forecast to grow in popularity as a destination for British tourists this year, according to the Holiday Money Report 2011, recently issued by the Post Office, the UK's largest foreign currency provider.
"Movie stars and backpackers have long since discovered its beaches but 2011 was the year when Viet Nam finally seems to have made it onto the world stage," states the report. The document reviews UK travel trends from previous years and identifies holiday hotspots for 2012 based on exchange rates, trends and resort costs.
After a yearly 106 per cent growth in sales of the dong between August-November of 2011, Viet Nam, together with Argentina, is tied for the top position on the Post Office's first list of emerging holiday destinations.
With the December launch of the first non-stop service from London to Ha Noi and HCM City, the floodgates are "likely to open as a crop of new beach hotels compete head to head with Thailand on price", according to the report.
"Viet Nam could finally prove to be the next big thing in long haul tourism," the Post Office forecasts.
The Post Office's worldwide holiday cost barometer, which compares costs for holiday travel packages, puts Viet Nam as the 10th cheapest of the 40 destinations surveyed.
Thailand is still the cheapest South East Asian country surveyed, but Viet Nam has emerged as a good value with just GBP50.71 (US$80) for eight tourist items, including dinner for two with wine, in resort areas.(Sri Lanka was the cheapest place and Australia the most expensive of all for British travellers.)
Viet Nam is a little more expensive, 9 per cent more than Thailand, but still it's a better place than other regional countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
Some British tourists said Viet Nam is even cheaper in reality, with a bottle of local beer sold at about VND10,000 ($0.47), instead of $2.76 as reported by the barometer.
Viet Nam received more than 156,000 UK visitors in 2011, up by almost 90 per cent compared to 2005, according to the Viet Nam Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
Although the UK is not in Viet Nam's top 10 tourism markets of 2011, which is headed by China, it has been one of major European markets.
"Everyone is going to Viet Nam," said Anne Smith, a retired Briton who has planned for a trip to Viet Nam herself this summer.
VNAT's Travel Department director Nguyen Quy Phuong said the country would focus on promotions in the UK, given that the direct flights and the Post Office's ratings were opportunities for a tourism boom after economic downturns. —VNS