Efforts made to maintain the target for international visitors
Following over three months of reopening (since March 15), Vietnam's tourism sectors recorded many signs of prosperity. However, to achieve the set expectations, especially the growth of international visitors, additional breakthrough solutions are needed to attract more foreign tourists.
Being determined to revive tourism following over two years of paralysis due to the heavy impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam set the target of serving 65 million visitors in 2022, including 60 million domestic tourists. At the time of setting the target, experts said that this is quite an ambitious figure, especially as the tourism supply chain has been broken for a long time. However, by the end of June, the country's tourism industry created surprise when it exceeded the annual plan for the growth of domestic tourists with a total number of 60.8 million in the first six months of the year, an increase of 1.9 times compared to the same period last year and 1.3 times over the same period in 2019 (before the pandemic). This proved that the post-COVID-19 tourism demand of people in the country has been booming,leading to an increase of 94.4% in tourism revenue in the first six months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. This is a good sign for the fast and strong resilience of Vietnam's tourism industry as well as the strong development prospects of the domestic tourism market.
However, compared to the excitement of the domestic market,international tourism, especially in the inbound segment (welcoming international visitors), is much quieter. According to the General Statistics Office, Vietnam welcomed 602,000 international visitors in the first six months of the year, 6.8 times higher than the same period in 2021 but down 92.9% compared to the same period in 2019. This figure is still far from the goal of reaching 5 million international visitors in 2022. The objective reason is that some large and traditional markets of Vietnamese tourism have still been applying restrictions on travel and entry for epidemic prevention and control. Specifically, China, as the leading market in terms of visitors to Vietnam, is still pursuing the policy of "Zero COVID” so it has not yet opened its doors to international tourism. Japan and Taiwan (China) have still applied isolation policies for visitors returning from some countries, so they have not stimulated people to travel abroad. Meanwhile, the Republic of Korea (RoK) has only truly opened tourism activities since the beginning of April. In addition, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has cause a sharp decline in the number of tourists from these two countries while also having a negative impact on European tourists' going abroad. In addition, tourists' concerns about the possibility of problems such as COVID-19 infection when traveling abroad, conditions for treatment, accommodation, isolation and costs also lead to apprehensions for tourists when deciding to travel abroad.
However, this is a common difficulty that all countries in the region must face. Therefore, the opportunity in attracting visitors will belong to those countries that really create a competitive advantage. On the international track, Vietnam's tourism has just scored when its tourism development capacity index increased by 8 places compared to 2019, ranking 52nd out of 122 countries and territories, and is among the three nations with the highest score increase in the world (according to the ranking announced the World Economic Forum). Data from Google also showed that the number of foreign searches for Vietnam tourism has been increasing month by month. These are favourable factors that the tourism industry needs to take advantage of to enhance solutions to attract and recover international visitors.
Speaking at an online conference to review activities in the first six months of the year and implement tasks for the second half of 2022, which has just been held by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Director General of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) Nguyen Trung Khanh said in order to fulfil the goal of welcoming international visitors in 2022 in the context of many difficulties and challenges, it is necessary to exploit the markets that have been reconnected with in terms of aviation such as the RoK, Japan, Western Europe, Australia, and ASEAN while shifting to connecting with new and potential markets such as India, the US, and the Middle East. The VNAT will coordinate with localities, businesses, airlines and the Tourism Development Support Fund to carry out the "Live fully in Vietnam" programme, with a focus on the following main activities such as projects on introducing Vietnamese tourism in ASEAN, the RoK, Japan, India, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the organisation of Vietnam tourism pavilions and promotion activities at JATA tourism fair in Japan (September) and World Travel Market in the UK (November). The agency will also cooperate with the airlines to deploy stimulus packages applied to routes to quickly attract passengers to Vietnam; host survey programmes in Vietnam for travel and press agencies from Europe, the RoK and America; promote e-marketing activities and digital transformation; and enhance technology application to reach the markets.
An important solution which was stressed by many experts was the need for a strategy to attract special and influential tourists to improve the effectiveness of Vietnam's tourism promotion activities. According to the Da Nang Tourism Promotion Centre, after the Incheon-Da Nang direct air route was officially reopened, the city welcomed five famous film crews and TV channels from the RoK with the participation of many idol stars. The images associated with the process of working, visiting, and experiencing by the stars from the RoK in Vietnam have attracted the attention of a large number of fans, many of whom are eager to visit Vietnam. In addition, many experts and representatives from tourism businesses have expressed their hope that the "knots" on visa policy should be promptly removed to open the flow of international visitors.