January 12, 2024 | 16:00 GMT+7

Year of opportunity awaits Vietnam’s international tourism market

Viet An

2024 promises to not only surpass pre-pandemic tourist arrivals in Vietnam but to also propel the country towards becoming a global hub for cultural, sporting, and political events, participants at a VnEconomy forum on January 11 were told.

VNAT Vice Chairman Ha Van Sieu speaking at the forum on January 11. (Photo: Viet Dung)
VNAT Vice Chairman Ha Van Sieu speaking at the forum on January 11. (Photo: Viet Dung)

Optimism echoed throughout the Vietnam Economic Scenario Forum 2024 on January 11 in Hanoi, where a senior representative from the Vietnam National Authority of Tourism (VNAT) expressed unwavering faith in the industry’s full recovery.

“Abundant positive signs point towards 2024 as the year when Vietnam’s international tourism market surpasses pre-pandemic figures,” VNAT Vice Chairman Ha Van Sieu declared at the Forum, organized by VnEconomy / Vietnam Economic Times (VET) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). He noted the reopening of major markets like China, Japan, and South Korea, which contribute over 30 per cent of Vietnam’s international arrivals.

The World Tourism Organization has reported that global tourism rebounded to around 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in 2023, with regions like the Middle East exceeding 2019 figures. However, the Asia-Pacific region lags behind, averaging only a 63 per cent recovery rate.

Despite welcoming 12.6 million foreign visitors in 2023, exceeding the government’s 8 million target, Vietnam still fell short of the 18 million visitors recorded in 2019. Mr. Sieu emphasized the continued momentum to be generated by government policies from 2023, including Resolution No. 82, which outlines key solutions for tourism recovery and sustainable development. Additionally, digital transformation initiatives like electronic visas are poised to further fuel the industry’s growth.

Beyond traditional markets, Vietnam aims to attract tourists from countries like India. “We will strengthen air links with India in 2024 to bolster visitor numbers,” Mr. Sieu affirmed.

Agreeing, Chairman of the Korea Chamber of Business in Vietnam (KOCHAM), Mr. Hong Sun, said tourism has been a beacon of hope amid a turbulent economic environment. South Koreans currently comprise the largest group of foreign visitors to Vietnam, with 3.6 million arrivals in 2023. Mr. Hong Sun expressed confidence in the government’s ambitious goal of welcoming 6 million South Korean visitors this year.

“South Koreans are captivated by Vietnam’s beauty and hospitality,” he explained. “Destinations like Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc Island have long been favorites, but we also seek to explore new horizons around the country.”

Realizing these ambitious targets necessitates addressing existing challenges. “The first major hurdle is infrastructure bottlenecks hampering the tourism sector, along with the scarcity of new attractions and services,” Mr. Sieu acknowledged.

The second challenge lies in the shortage of qualified tourism workers, potentially compromising the visitor experience. “South Korean tourists expect to have guides who deeply understand their language and culture,” Mr. Hong Sun said. “This presents an obstacle for South Korean travel agencies, due to restrictions on foreign tour guides. The government should either allow work permits for foreign guides or provide enhanced language and cultural training for local personnel.”

Mr. Sieu identified a lack of connectivity within the tourism supply chain, between attractions in different regions, and with related services as a third challenge. “Promoting cooperation, coupled with technological advancements and digital transformation to enhance smart tourism, will pave the way for Vietnam’s green and sustainable tourism development,” he believes.

Looking beyond traditional sectors, he reaffirmed Vietnam’s commitment to exploring new avenues by becoming a global hub for major international events. The country’s success in hosting concerts by renowned artists such as Black Pink, Maroon 5, and Charlie Puth in 2023 demonstrated its potential to attract international visitors through such endeavors.

“Vietnam will become an irresistible destination, drawing visitors from every corner of the globe,” he concluded.

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