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Vietnam Welcomes Record Number of Foreign Tourists in 2017: GSO

Last year was a good year for Vietnam's tourism industry.

According to the General Statistics Office, foreign visitors to Vietnam increased 29.1% in 2017, reaching an all-time high of 12.9 million. The numbers are a positive development after the local tourism sector experienced 13 straight months of decline between 2014 and 2015. And as it looks to reach its goals of welcoming 17-20 million foreign visitors in 2020 with annual tourism revenues of US$35 billion, the country is searching for solutions to the nation’s repeat visitor problem.

Korean travelers contributed significantly to the rise in tourism. During the first nine months of the year, more than 1.7 million Korean visitors arrived, a 51% increase over the past year, according to VietnamNet. While their numbers dropped slightly, Russians also constitute a significant percentage of tourists in addition to vacationers from Europe, China, South America and the US.

Despite the good news, the future of Vietnam’s tourism industry remains uncertain. It’s been estimated that at least 70% of tourists fail to make return trips. Last year Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue asked tourism agencies to solve robbery, petty crimes, traffic accidents and service quality issues. Unfortunately, these nuisances persist, along with visa hassles, pushy vendors, inadequate road conditions, pollution and food hygiene concerns that threaten to ruin visitor’s experiences.

Any progress, according to Head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Nguyen Van Tuan, will require cooperation between the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the transport sector, the police and local governments. Ken Atkinson, chairman of Grant Thornton and vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, added that that the main reason for the low return rate is that unlike Thailand or Indonesia, tourists do not see Vietnam as a family holiday destination. He suggested that it should have more amenable visa procedures and more activities for family recreations and better infrastructure.

Vietnam has already been making quantifiable efforts to improve foreigners’ stays, however. Measures include expanding the local public WiFi network and removing night time curfews. Forbes announced a recent proposal for a modest increase of the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism while Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently approved a project to develop direct air routes between Vietnam and key Asian, European, and American cities to support and bolster tourism.

Moreover, Hanoi’s Department of Tourism has begun offering training classes to residents of frequently visited areas in order to improve visitors’ experiences. Tour operators are pitching in as well by founding and implementing cleaning operations. 

Some of the efforts seem to be working and the country ranked 67th among 136 economies in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, putting it among the 10 most-improved since 2015.

[Photo via Thanh Nien]

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