Vietnam becomes new tourism hotspot in Southeast Asia

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Tourists walk at Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi, Vietnam on July 4, 2023. According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Vietnam received about 5.6 million international tourists in the first half of 2023. Vietnam expects to welcome 12 million foreign tourists by the end of this year. EPA-EFE/Liang Tailing

Vietnam has quickly become one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations, with tourists admiring the country’s diverse landscapes, beaches, mountainous rice terraces and bustling cities.

According to the Google Destination Insights report, Vietnam was the seventh most searched destination from March to June and the only country in Southeast Asia to break into the top 20.

Vietnam’s popularity is reflected in the number of international tourists. The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism announced in June that Vietnam received more than 5.5 million foreign tourists in the first six months of 2023, exceeding the total number of international tourists in 2022.

Vietnam tourists expected to grow even more

Vietnam’s tourism industry has set a target of 8 million tourists for the remainder of 2023, but the tourism bureau has since forecast that number could rise to 10 million.

Bobby Nguyen, chairman of travel agency Rustic Hospitality Group, told DW that the increase in tourism was mainly from Chinese, Indian and South Korean tourists.

“China has reopened its outbound market to Vietnam and the Indian market has been growing since 2022,” he said.

Nguyen added that the use of social media and the influence of large tour groups have also helped boost Vietnam’s international profile.

“Having online communication channels like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or promotional channels on Google or other online channels is also the fastest way to promote Vietnam’s image to the world,” he said.

Vietnam’s improved visa policy expected to boost tourism

Hanoi recently approved a new visa policy for international tourists arriving in the country, extending the visa exemption period from 15 to 45 days for certain countries.

For tourists from countries eligible to apply for a Vietnam e-Visa, the visa will be valid for up to 90 days and can be single or multiple entries.

These changes will take effect on August 15th.

Kuala Lumpur-based travel analyst Gary Bowerman said the visa changes would boost tourism.

He told DW: “Tourist numbers are picking up and over the next six months you will see an increase in the number of tourists going to Vietnam. I think tourist numbers will be very strong and you will see growth, especially now The return of the Chinese market.”

One of Vietnam’s selling points is that it’s a little-known destination that offers tourism and business opportunities, Bowerman said.

“A lot of young people now want to know more about the country. I think there are a lot of places in Vietnam that are lesser known. I think Thailand is probably better known. There is a sense of discovery and mystery in Vietnam. It’s a place that people want to invest in , countries that want to do business, want to travel,” he added.

Vietnam Tourism Outlook

For tour companies in Vietnam, the new visa policy and the prospect of more international tourists is exciting.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens,” said Max Lambert, owner of Fuse Hostels & Travel.

Fuse launched two hotels in the popular city of Hoi An late last year, but Lambert already believes his company is operating at close to pre-pandemic levels.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of international guests staying at hotels in the past three months,” he told DW, adding that bookings had returned to 2019 levels.

“I think the hangover from the pandemic is pretty much over for our market,” he said.

Thailand remains at the top of the list

However, the number of international tourists entering Vietnam remains well below pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, there were nearly 19 million international tourists.

That means Vietnam has a long way to go before it can compete with Thailand in tourism, Lambert said.

“The numbers in Thailand are still growing. Thailand is a big player in the region and it will take a long time for Vietnam to reach that level,” he said.

Tour operator Nguyen said Vietnam must improve in several areas to realize its full potential.

“Tourism is a comprehensive economy, and coordination between ministries and departments must be close. Infrastructure, including roads, railways and highway systems, is not suitable for the development of tourism,” he said.

“There is a need to retrain and train new personnel in the tourism industry to meet the quality of service provided to tourists,” he added.

Thailand expects tourist arrivals to reach 20 million by the end of 2023. However, Thailand’s tourism industry is aiming to return to 2019 levels, when the country welcomed a record 39 million international tourists.

“Thailand has reemerged as the most visited country in the region and the leading tourist country in the region. That won’t change. Thailand’s tourism industry is doing very well,” analyst Bowerman said.

“However, before the pandemic, Vietnam was really not necessarily seen as a challenger, but certainly an emerging force. Vietnam was seen as the next big thing in tourism in Southeast Asia. I think it still is,” he added road.

Editor: Wesley Lahn

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