Results and impressions of Vietnam tourism in 2017

In 2017, Vietnam tourism welcomed more than 12.9 million international visitors, up by 30 percent compared with 2016, and served 74 million domestic passengers, an increase of 19 percent in comparison to the figure last year. Revenue from the sector reached VND 510,000 billion, up by 22 percent compared to the same period last year. The number of foreign tourists to Vietnam in 2017 broke two records in 2016 and made two new records as the highest number of visitors and the highest level of the absolute increase during the year (3 million).

Ha Long Bay drawing thousands of visitors every year. (Photo for illustration)

It was highlighted that the number of international visitor arrivals in 2017 could reach the highest rate in the region and Vietnam was in the top 10 countries with high tourism growth rate such as Indonesia (20%), Cambodia (15%), the Philippines (12%), Myanmar (10%), Thailand (8%), and Singapore (7%). The absolute increase of 3 million visitors was also the highest figure of the ASEAN countries in 2017.

The above results were achieved along with memorable events in the history of the tourism industry, including:

(1) Resolution No.08-NQ/TW issued on January 16, 2017 by the Politburo on developing tourism into a spearheaded economic industry; resolutions of the Party Committees at all level; actions plan of the Government, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the ministries, departments and localities;

(2) The Law on Tourism approved by the National Assembly and comes into effect in 2018, creating an important legal framework for the development of the tourism sector in the current context;

(3) Vietnam's tourism winning many international prizes such as "World's Leading Tour Operator 2017" award for Viettel, "Luxury resort in the world" award for the InterContinental Da Nang Sun Peninsula Resort; “World's Best New Resort in the 2017" award honored by the World Travel Awards for JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay. Vietnam has been selected as the best golf destination in the Asia-Pacific region and chosen as emerging luxury destination by the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA);

(4) National Tourism Year 2017 themed Lao Cao and Northwestern provinces successfully organized, promoting cooperation among localities and highlighting the tourism products in 2017;

(5) The film Kong: Skull Island asserting powerful effects on Vietnam's beauty in the world.

Achievements and some limitations

These results and historical milestones derived from the following elements:

Firstly, the attention of the Party, the Government, the Prime Minister and the National Assembly to tourism development creates favorable environment for the tourism sector to develop. In addition, Resolution No.08-NQ/TW of the Politburo has made a strong impetus for the development of tourism. The Government, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism along with the ministries, departments and relevant agencies have constantly guided units and localities to promote the development of tourism. The Law of Tourism approved by the National Assembly is an important legal basis for tourism development in the current context;

Secondly, the great efforts of localities and enterprises over the past years have established a technical and infrastructure system of tourism sector. In 2017, 90 tourism accommodations were recognized as 3-5 star hotels, of which 13 are in the 5-star, 31 are 4-star and 46 3-star classes. Currently, the country has 25,600 tourism accommodations with more than 508,000 rooms, up by 12% of total accommodations and 11% of total rooms compared to 2016. There are 116 5-star hotels with nearly 35,000 rooms, 260 4-star hotels with over 34,000 rooms and 488 3-star hotels with more than 34,000 rooms;

Thirdly, the close cooperation between ministries, departments and localities in the development of tourism are effective; consisting of connecting traffic by land and air, simplifying procedures of visa requirements for tourists, adjusting electricity prices and input services of tourism products to increasingly support tourism enterprises, and ensuring security, environmental sanitation and food safety in localities;

Fourthly, activities promoting trade and culture between Vietnam and other markets have been increasingly effective. The connection among markets, airlines and destinations has become closer, leading to the effective organization of market exploitation;

In 2017, a lot of tourism promotion programs were carried out in both scope and scale. The tourism sector  successfully organized two international tourism fairs namely VITM (Hanoi) and ITE (Ho Chi Minh City), welcoming many prestigious delegation from press agencies and business to Vietnam, continuing to participate in international tourism fairs such as ITB Berlin (Germany), WTM (UK), MITT (Russia), TRAVEX (Singapore), JATA (Japan) and organized many Open Markets program in key and potential markets such as China, Western Europe, North Europe, Japan, Republic of Korea and India.

To develop Vietnam's tourism in the coming time, it is necessary to solve four main problems, including:

- The limited visa policy compared to the competitive destination of Vietnam tourism. According to the Global Tourism Competitiveness Report in 2017, Vietnam ranked 116 in terms of visa requirements which is lowest among the ASEAN countries.

- Vietnam's airport infrastructure is about to overload and cannot meet the demand of tourists, especially Tan Son Nhat Airport (Ho Chi Minh City). The competitive environment among airlines allowed to exploit the domestic market is limited. Franchise 5 on aviation has not yet been implemented.

- Vietnam has yet to have representative offices in key markets.

- The management of destinations, tourism environment, food-service and traffic safety have been inadequate. In addition, illegal tourism business activities and tour guides have been popular, affecting the quality and image of Vietnam tourism.

Prospects for Vietnam tourism in 2018

2018 is expected to be a successful year of Vietnam tourism. The above statement is based on the advantages and opportunities of the tourism industry, consisting of: (1) the basis of new development, guidelines, policies, regulations and laws for the development of tourism industry; (2) motivations for the development from investors and tourism enterprises; (3) close cooperation between Vietnam and countries in the region and world; as well as (4) attractive image of Vietnam tourism.

In 2018, Vietnam is expected to welcome 15.5 million foreign visitors, an increase of 20 percent from 2017; serve 80 million domestic tourists, up 8 percent against last year; gain VND 620,000 billion from the tourists' total revenue, up by 22 percent in comparison to 2016.

The Vietnam tourism sector experienced a year with many impressions. However, there still remain problems and challenges which the sector needs to solve and overcome to help the "travel boat" fulfill all assigned targets of the Party and the State. The tourism sector is looking forward to 2018 with much anticipation for a brighter picture.

Translated by Lam Anh