As Viet Nam's official Tourism Envoy to New Zealand for 2014, Vietnamese celebrity Jennifer Pham has returned from a visit to the country.
During the 10-day trip, she kept the Vietnamese public updated through her daily blog with stories about her trips to tourist attractions in Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch, Mt Cook and Queenstown.
As an envoy, Pham is helping the New Zealand Embassy in Viet Nam to promote the country as a ‘new horizon' tourism destination for Vietnamese travellers by raising New Zealand's profile.
She spoke to Culture Vulture.
How do you feel about the honour and responsibility of your role?
I feel that it's not just a great opportunity but also a great personal honour to be the New Zealand Embassy's Tourism Envoy.
I've heard about New Zealand for a really long time, but to visit, discover and experience this beautiful country has been an unbelievable experience. The thing that struck me the most during my trip was the warmth of the people, and that's motivated me to promote New Zealand tourism in Viet Nam.
I plan to take my whole family to New Zealand for a holiday over the next year. Many friends of mine have also read about my trip, and they too plan to explore this country.
Could you please share your impressions and experience in NZ?
What I liked and impressed me the most during the trip was a visit to the fantastic movie set of Lord of the Rings.
I was also deeply impressed with the country's cuisine. I liked the beef, wine and the desserts that were introduced to me by the locals. It seems vineyards stretch throughout the country.
It is also a fantastic shopping paradise. I bought lots of craft products including local hand-made shoes and sandals.
I love the New Zealanders that I met. They are friendly, and their humor and view on life is something to aspire to. New Zealand is a country worth living in.
The country is well known for the variety of adventure activities and extreme sports it has to offer, including bungy jumping, jet boating and skydiving. During my tour, I got to travel over high mountains and glaciers by helicopter and land on top of the Tasman Glacier. The views from the helicopter were stunning.
When we arrived at Mount Cook, we headed out on a hike and took a tour of the Tasman Lake leading up to the Tasman Glacier by boat. It was an amazing experience to hold a piece of 300-500 year old ice in my hands from the Tasman Glacier.
Was there a difference between you expected of NZ and what you actually saw?
I never realised that New Zealand was so beautiful with so many must-see tourist destinations before I travelled there. After my trip to New Zealand, I decided on a slogan for my life: keep going and feel new experiences, and you will find true motivation for life.
Which types of tourism products/services do you think can promote the country's image?
New Zealand is a country with lots of variety – it has thousands of idyllic beaches, snow-topped mountains, pristine rivers, lakes and streams, rolling farms and vineyards, and beautiful rugged forests.
This natural variety is complimented by friendly and warm people all wanting to show international visitors the best possible time, a vibrant hospitality scene, and a great mix of culture and arts, including insights into the traditional culture of the Maori to tours of Hobbiton and some of the world's best adventure tourism just to top it off.
With such variety it is hard to come up with one ‘iconic' thing New Zealand should use to help promote its image as a tourism destination, but, if I had to pick, I would say that New Zealand's natural beauty is its most valuable feature.
In your opinion, what should NZ do to promote tourism to overseas travellers?
New Zealand needs to let people know about the amazing things it has to offer. Most people in Viet Nam know very little about New Zealand, but it has so much to offer, and once people hear about New Zealand, I am sure that everyone will want to visit. — VNS