PM orders solutions for bottlenecks in international tourism
Although Việt Nam reopened its borders soon after the COVID-19 pandemic was brought under control, international tourist arrivals have been modest due to a number of bottlenecks, experts heard at a national conference on the issue.
Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính on Wednesday chaired the teleconference on promoting Việt Nam’s international tourism with leaders of 20 localities which are home to international tourism hot spots.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, due to the pandemic, since 2020, the number of foreign arrivals in Việt Nam declined. In 2021, about 3,500 foreign arrivals were reported.
From March 2022, Việt Nam officially reopened its tourism sector, earlier than many other countries in the region, in the spirit of flexible, safe adaptation and effective control of COVID-19.
Việt Nam has also resumed its visa waiver programme, and has not required medical declarations and COVID-19 vaccine certificates upon arrival from May 15, 2022.
A series of tourism promotion activities have been stepped up, especially on digital platforms.
However, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism reported that the recovery of international tourism has been slow.
In the first 11 months of 2022, the number of foreign arrivals to Việt Nam reached 2.9 million, including 2.7 million foreign tourists, increasing by 21.1 per cent compared to the same period last year but declining by 81.9 per cent compared to the same period of 2019, prior to the pandemic.
It is estimated that the total foreign arrivals in Việt Nam for the whole of 2022 will be 3.5 million, which is only 70 per cent of the target of 5 million, and extremely modest compared to the 101.3 million domestic visitors.
Participants at the conference blamed the modest statistics partly on impacts of international conflicts, pandemic prevention and control of other countries.
Other reasons are ineffective tourism promotion resources. Việt Nam's tourism products and services are still limited while the visa policy has not created favourable conditions for international tourists to come and extend their stay.
Leaders of sectors and localities proposed solutions for the sustainable development of the tourism market, in which a national tourism development programme is needed.
Other solutions include applying digital transformation to tourism development; supporting travel businesses and related industries with capital, taxes and fees to invest in tourism recovery; as well as opening more international flight routes.
PM Chính told travel agencies and localities to have an innovative approach towards tourism. “We must provide services that tourists need, not only available services that we have,” he said.
He said there is a close relationship between Vietnamese tourism and regional and global tourism. Tourism development in Việt Nam must be placed in the overall tourism development of the world and the region.
Tourism development is always associated with economy, culture, history, national traditions, country and people, in relevance with environmental and nature protection, he said.
He emphasised that tourism development must focus on professionalism, modernisation, diversification and preserve Vietnamese identities.
He urged strengthening regional linkages, international co-operation and connecting tourism with other sectors in the value chains to create diversified tourism products such as ecotourism, adventure tourism, resort tourism, medical tourism, culinary tourism and green tourism.
We must maintain political stability, social order and safety to become a safe, friendly, attractive, humane and favourable destination to satisfy visitors with a warm welcome, he said.
He highlighted the need to improve tourism competitiveness, make tourists to Việt Nam "remember the country" and want to come back as well as inspire others to visit.
“The European countries are now in winter while our country has warm, sunny areas. It is necessary to do research to find a suitable solution to take advantage of and further promote that strength,” he said.
Việt Nam should join and propose the initiative to form tourism cooperation groups among countries in ASEAN and Asia-Pacific regions while promoting the role of Vietnamese representative agencies abroad as well as Vietnamese organisations, individuals and diplomatic channels to develop tourism, he said.
“Tourism is a spearhead and general economic sector. It is necessary to step up coordination among ministries and localities, and have fair and healthy competition among sectors and businesses," he said.
Tourism minister Nguyễn Văn Hùng told the conference that Việt Nam's current visa-free stay at 15 days is too short compared to other countries in the region and does not match the demand of international visitors, especially Western ones, who usually have three to four week vacation.
Hùng proposed raising the visa exemption period to 30 days, consider the issuance of visas at the border gates, granting e-visas for tourists from all countries instead of the current ones in the list, and further simplifying the visa issuance procedures.