Viet Nam News
Việt Nam’s tourism industry is expected to maintain a high growth rate this year but remaining sustainable while still achieving such growth rate is a big challenge. Việt Nam News’s Mai Hương speaks to Lê Tuấn Anh, deputy director general of the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism’s international co-operation department, about the country’s tourism branding strategy.
What is your assessment of Việt Nam’s tourism branding promotion in the past?
In 2017, the Politburo for the first time issued a resolution on developing tourism into a spearhead economic sector by 2020 and the National Assembly passed amendments to the Law on Tourism. In the policy system, we have a comprehensive tourism development strategy to 2020 with a vision to 2030, together with regional development plans.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism also came out with a branding strategy for Vietnamese tourism by 2020 with a vision to 2030.
Việt Nam’s tourism slogan, ‘Việt Nam – Timeless Charm’, underlines the basic value of the country’s tourism as represented by the length of historical and cultural space and the variety of beautiful scenery and world-class resorts. There are things only found in Việt Nam, such as experiences related to and feelings engendered by Vietnamese cuisine, cultures of the diverse ethnic groups and breathtaking landscapes such as Sơn Đoòng Cave and Hạ Long Bay.
The country is now focused on developing a professional and high-quality tourism industry, which is associated with the expansion of high-class resorts that gratify even global leaders and celebrities.
In the last two years, Việt Nam has witnessed rapid growth of five-star hotels and resorts as well as improvement in the quality of tourism services. Though still modest, the number of high-spending tourists from Europe, the US and Australia coming to Việt Nam is increasing. These tourists mainly stay in high-end resorts.
What has Việt Nam done to innovate products and services to sharpen its competitiveness?
In the initial stage of development we relied on available natural resources, which generated low added value and modest benefits due to the lack of investment, innovation and high-quality products.
We are currently developing a project to restructure the tourism industry with a focus on creative and high added-value services while reducing exploitation of natural resources. We are no longer developing small, fragmented resorts, but encouraging large-scale or creative clusters.
Innovative products need big investments and high-quality services. For instance, travel agencies organising adventure and exploration tours are urged to collaborate with the community at the destination localities to develop products and services and design activities while ensuring hygiene and safety for tourists. With good products, tourists will spend more and lengthen their stay, and these benefits will spread to the entire community.
Việt Nam’s tourism faces the dilemma that there are too many things to advertise. What do you think about choosing cuisine as the central feature for the country’s tourism brand?
One of the advantages of Việt Nam’s tourism is the diversity encompassing our four main products: seas and islands; culture; nature; and city tourism. Depending on markets and promotion programmes, we will highlight a certain feature.
Vietnamese cuisine has prominence in our cultural tourism, which can stand alone and attract foreign tourists. We have also determined that culinary tourism is one of the pillars to promote tourism. We have organised many food shows and food festivals. Last year, the Việt Nam Culinary Culture Association and Việt Nam Chefs Association were established.
Culinary tourism has been promoted very strongly, but to strengthen its image and brand in international markets, more efforts should be made at the national level. This task has not been done efficiently due to a lack of funding and shortcomings in promotion and co-ordination between various management authorities.
The funding provided for promotion is modest compared to the industry’s potential. How will tourism authorities deal with this?
The current budget for tourism promotion is very low, at US$2-2.5 million per year, much smaller than the $100 million a year spent by Thailand and Malaysia. The big spending helps these countries jockey the image of their country, and businesses and localities design activities that dovetail with that image. Việt Nam has to be frugal in both the domestic and international markets.
Tourism promotion can be done through many channels like TV, social networks and fairs. Each channel has its own advantages. In the digital age and the context of limited resources, Việt Nam is strengthening promotion through the internet and social networks as well as public-private partnerships.
Complying with the Prime Minister’s direction, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in co-ordination with other relevant authorities has called for the establishment of a tourism development fund whose main function is to promote national tourism.
I expect this fund to be established and put into operation this year. The operation of this fund, besides supplementing resources, will make the financial mechanism more flexible and the multi-stakeholder management mechanism more effective.
In fact, there is no single agency that can effectively promote the country’s tourism, and this needs concerted efforts by diplomatic, trade and other social and professional organisations.
What is the outlook for Việt Nam’s tourism in 2018?
There are many advantages this year in terms of policy mechanisms (relatively synchronised) and enhanced awareness among State officials about the benefits of as well as demand for sustainable tourism development.
Việt Nam, as a dynamic economy in the Asia-Pacific region, has emerged as an attractive tourism destination in the context that many other markets have reached saturation.
The tourism industry achieved big success in 2017 with a growth rate of nearly 30 per cent and receiving 13 million international visitors. In 2018, Việt Nam continue targeting growth of 20-30 per cent and 15-17 million international arrivals. Data for the first two months was positive with over 2.8 million foreign visitors, an increase of nearly 30 per cent over the same period last year.
The prospects are good but challenges remain, especially given the country’s limited development capacity. Airports are overloaded and organisational capacity at many destinations around the country has not kept pace with the rapid growth in tourist arrival numbers (eg. security, safety and sanitation).
We are thinking more about competing with other countries and target catching up with Indonesia and Thailand in terms of foreign tourist arrivals. This calls for great changes in terms of development policies and facilities provided to tourists. — VNS