Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI – Việt Nam’s tourism sector has got off to a positive start this new year, with familiar destinations drawing in hundreds of thousands of visitors nationwide.
Thousands of foreign visitors flocked to the capital city of Hà Nội, the World Heritage town of Hội An in Quảng Nam Province, the Đồng Văn Karst Plateau in Hà Giang Province and Huế City in central Việt Nam.
On the last day of the year 2016 and the first day of 2017, the famed Hạ Long Bay in the northern province of Quảng Ninh welcomed 26,000 tourists, mostly international, while the coastline province of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu received some 65,000 tourists, mostly from bordering southern provinces.
Nguyễn Ngọc Hinh, Vice Chairman of the mountainous Sa Pa District, Lào Cai Province, said the homestay tourism model had been promoted heavily for the New Year’s Eve holiday. On the first day of 2017, 35,000 tourists had arrived in the district, a slight increase over last year’s figure.
Đà Lạt, a famous attraction in the Tây Nguyên (Central Highlands) province of Lâm Đồng, received more than 40,000 tourists for the New Year celebrations, one-fifth of them foreigners.
Ngô Anh Tuấn, director of the Đà Lạt Discovery Company, said, “People now care more about agriculture, so farming tours have become attractive.”
Officials said efforts will be made this year to complete the draft for the amended Law on Tourism for submission to the National Assembly for review and promulgation.
Although 2016 was a year of unprecedented growth for the Việt Nam’s tourism sector, marked by a record number of international arrivals, there is no room for complacency, senior officials have cautioned.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism said at a year-end review conference last week that the encouraging achievements will enable further success this year.
Vũ Thế Bình, Vice Chairman of the Việt Nam Tourism Association, said he was pleasantly surprised at the sector’s expectation-defying achievements.
The number of foreign visitors to Việt Nam in 2016 increased by a whopping 25 per cent compared to last year’s and exceeded the projected figure of 8.5 million by 1.5 million to reach more than 10 million.
The sector also recorded 62 million domestic tourists last year, around half of them staying overnight at their destinations.
Tourism revenues of VNĐ 400.7 trillion (US$ 17.9 billion) last year marked a year-on-year increase of 18.6 per cent.
Notably, all these figures equalled or exceeded the targets set for 2020 in the national tourism development plan that had been approved by the Prime Minister. These included 10- 10.5 million international passengers, 47- 48 million domestic passengers, and total revenues of $17-18 billion.
This means that the sector has achieved set targets four years ahead of schedule, overcoming a recent downturn in international arrivals that lasted for more than a year – from May 2014 till July 2015, as a consequence of tension between Việt Nam and China following the latter’s illegal installation of an oil rig in Vietnamese waters.
According to Tourism Marketing Department, under the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), in just six years (2010-2016), the number of international arrivals to the country doubled to 10 million, while it took as many as 15 years (1994-2010) to go up from one million to five million.
In 2017, the tourism sector expects to welcome some 11.5 million of international tourists and 60 million of domestic tourists, and earn VNĐ460 trillion ($20.2 billion) in revenue.
Nguyễn Văn Tuấn, General Director of VNAT, attributed the sector’s success to the hands-on guidance and keen attention it has received from the Party and the State, especially with the Politburo’s decision to turn tourism into a key economic sector. Well co-ordinated efforts to materialise the plan was also a factor, he said.
He said the Government will look at further streamlining entry procedures, the ‘open skies’ policy, and developing direct routes to key tourist markets. A fund for tourism development will also be established shortly.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Nguyễn Ngọc Thiện, emphasised that never before has Việt Nam’s tourism sector had such favorable conditions for growth. However, he also cautioned that the sector “must not rest on its laurels, become complacent with what it has achieved.”
He said the sector “must look into its weaknesses and find ways to improve”. Service quality, human resources, management of tourists and tour-guides were identified as the weaknesses, he added.
Bình of the Viet Nam Tourism Association said facilitative policies contributed materially to the sector’s successes last year. Without the unilateral visa exemption policy targeting visitors from the five Western European countries – an important market for Việt Nam – there would have been no tourism impetus, he said.
Last year, visitors from this region increased by 20 per cent, leading to a hike from other regions as well, he added.
Last year also marked the establishment of dozens of tourism departments, signifying localities’ serious intention to promote the sector. – VNS