It's not just a question of how many tourists visit, but how tourism helps the economy, Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism head Nguyen Van Tuan tells Kinh Te & Do Thi (Economy and Urban Affairs).
What are the main development obstacles that the tourism sector is facing, and how can they be overcome?
First of all, the sector should create good and unique tourism products. We should take advantage of places with great international prestige, like Ha Long Bay and the Son Doong Cave.
Getting a visa is still a concern for foreign tourists. Though the procedures have been simplified recently, tourists are still facing difficulties in getting visas. However, I think the visa exemptions granted recently will bring in more advantages and make the national tourism sector more competitive. One of the reasons that Viet Nam has found it hard to compete with other countries in the region is the visa exemption that they grant to the citizens of many countries.
Second, there is lack of direct flights from and to major markets.
Third, the sector has not yet paid enough attention to promotion campaigns. We still have very few staff working on promotion activities.
Then there are problems with State management of the quality of tourism services and the sector's human resources.
In the first half this year, the number of foreign tourists arriving in Viet Nam fell by 11.3 per cent, compared to the same period last year. However, the number of tourists visiting Da Nang City has been increasing. How do you explain this?
I think this is quite normal. Tourists choose specific destinations for several reasons, like unique products, good service, safe and secure places, and friendly people and environment. These factors make tourists want to return. This is a really important thing.
Many people say that Viet Nam's tourism sector needs to offer cheaper products to more tourists. What do you think?
We should have both reasonable and hi-end products. The cheaper products are for majority. We also have to create hi-end products of international standards.
In general, there is a trend to discount tour packages, but not for creating specific products to attract tourists. For example, the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand for the first half this year has increased 96 per cent against the same period last year thanks to a cheap prices policy. However, they still earned big profits from shopping and entertainment services.
In my opinion, Viet Nam's tourism sector should not attach much importance to cheap services. It should do so for high-class products. The important thing is how much profit the tourism sector earns and how much it contributes to the national economy, not merely how many tourists come to the country. — VNS