Vietnam’s Thriving Tourism Trade
By Patricia Ieong
Vietnam saw over 7.57 million international visitors in 2013, convincingly beating its target of 7.2 million for the year. The figures released by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) represented a rise of 10.6 percent from the 2012 year (6.85 million). Revenues generated from tourism in 2013 came to US$9.4 billion.
These positive results can be attributed in part to a general increase in tourists flocking to Asia — up 6 percent from 2012, according to the UN World Tourism Organization’s estimates. Another reason for the increase is strong growth from emerging markets, particularly Russia and China. Visitors from Russia grew to 298,000 in 2013, representing an impressive 71.1 percent change from the previous year. Russian visitors have been flying to Vietnam in large numbers since they were granted a 15-day visa exemption in 2009, and the Vietnamese government is considering extending this exemption to 30 days.
The vast majority of visitors still come from China, however, with the Asian superpower sending 1.9 million visitors last year — a considerable increase of 33.5 percent from 2012, and over a quarter of Vietnam’s international visitors. China, which became the world’s largest outbound tourism market in 2012 with US$102 billion of expenditure, has seen its outbound tourist numbers rocketing. As the country’s growing middle class start to seek vacation destinations more exotic than Hong Kong or Macau, but remain constrained by financial considerations and annual leave limitations, countries in Southeast Asia are likely to see a large influx of Chinese tourists.
The country sending the second highest number of visitors to Vietnam is South Korea, which sent 749,000 last year (up 6.8 percent from the previous year). Like Russian citizens, South Koreans enjoy a 15-day visa free exemption in Vietnam. South Korean visitors are increasingly going to Ho Chi Minh City to play golf, and the VNAT is determined to capitalize on this opportunity by developing the Vietnam’s budding golf tourism industry. Vietnam is also seeing strong growth in visitors coming from its ASEAN neighbors Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, with visitor numbers increasing by 19.1, 15.7 and 13.5 percent respectively.
Vietnam has seen impressive growth since 2010, when international visitors increased by 34.8 percent (5.05 million). Though growth rates became more modest in 2011 (19.1 percent, 6.01 million visitors) and 2012 (13.9 percent, 6.85 million), the numbers remain strong, and the VNAT has its sights set on continued growth in 2014. The VNAT is targeting 8 million visitors in 2014, and January has already seen an estimated 722,350 international visitors. Compared to the same period last year, this represents a significant increase of 20.8 percent. The VNAT is making a concerted effort to boost Vietnam’s tourism industry further, by participating in international tourism exhibitions and promotions in Russia, China, and South Korea, as well as Japan, Europe and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is also aiming to expand its tourism reach by targeting tourism expos in the Middle East and India — markets that are as-yet undeveloped in Vietnam.
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