Long-haul markets collapse to Vietnam in 2009

Long-haul markets to Vietnam are in the doldrums and were behind the collapse of total arrivals last year to the country. Looking at preliminary figures from Vietnam National Tourism Administration, total arrivals dropped last year by 11% to 3.025 million tourists. This bad performance follows already a mediocre year 2008 where total arrivals were only up by 0.6% at 4.25 million.

Long-standing problems of Vietnam tourism such as double pricing for foreigners, an average quality of service compared to prices and uneasy procedures to get a visa. With Myanmar, Vietnam remains in fact the only country within ASEAN not to propose visa-on-arrival facilities- have been exacerbated by the current recession.

All markets recorded decline with the worst performing countries being South Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan. Overseas, French and Australian arrivals declined respectively by 3.1% and 6.9% over 2008. Vietnam’s current tagline,‘The Hidden Charm,’ never seems to be so accurate to many international travelers than last year.

Speaking about Vietnam Tourism tagline, the authorities should maybe look again at the impact of its various promotional campaigns. Discounts offered on tours to Vietnam were largely ignored by foreign travelers while promotion campaigns were insufficient. Hopefully, 2009 unfavorable figures will maybe emulate Vietnamese authorities to show more flexibility to welcome travelers. The visa-on-arrival issue or the opening of more airports to international traffic could be two easy and effective signs to boost arrivals.

Meanwhile, VNAT expects a recovery in 2010 due to the end of the recession with total arrivals being back to the level of 2008 with total travelers hovering between 4.2 and 4.5 million.

According to Nguyen Van Tuan, director of VNAT in an interview to the Saigon Times, Vietnam will launch promotion campaigns in ASEAN member countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, in Taiwan and also in France.

The travel industry also submitted three major projects to the government, including the development of resorts around the coastal areas and some islands as well as looking at border tourism projects with Cambodia and Laos. For international travelers, the most important event will however be the thousand anniversary of Hanoi, hosted during 10 days next October.