Vietnam’s tourism sector makes headway
Vietnam has a geographically favourable position with great potential for tourism development as it has many places of interest, well known beaches, thousands of historical sites, festivals, biosphere reserves and the world cultural heritage sites.
Despite having developed over the past 50 years, tourism activities in Vietnam actually went into full swing in the 90s thanks to the government's open door policy for international integration. In different development periods, in spite of certain difficulties, the tourism sector has maintained a steady growth, worthy of a key economic sector in the national economy.
Significant contributions to socio-economic development
According to the Vietnam Administration of Tourism (VAT), Vietnam welcomed only 250,000 international tourists in 1990 but the figure hit 3.8 million in 2009, a 15 fold increase, while domestic tourists were 25 million, up more than 20 times. Currently, Vietnam ranks fifth among ASEAN countries in terms of both the number of international tourists and revenue from tourism.
The workforce in the tourism sector has developed rapidly in both quantity and quality, currently boasting around 1 million tourism workers. From 1991 to 2009, direct tourism workers rose by 20 times, from 21,000 to 370,000 while indirect workers were estimated at more than 700,000 in 2009.
The tourism sector is always seen as a magnet for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Vietnam. In 2009 alone, the country attracted US$ 8.8 billion out of US$ 22.48 billion in total FDI for tourism.
Vietnam earned nearly US$4 billion from the tourism sector in 2009 which contributed around 5 percent of the country's GDP and had a positive impact on economic restructuring and development in different localities throughout the country as well as on the restoration of traditional craft villages and the preservation of cultural identities.
Developing tourism into a smoke free industry
The Head of the VAT, Nguyen Van Tuan said that despite having great tourism potential, the number of international arrivals in Vietnam annually remains low compared to those of some other regional countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia due to inappropriate investment in infrastructure and the poor skill-base among human resources.
In the context of deeper international economic integration, to develop the tourism sector into a smoke free industry which can greatly contribute to the country's development and has a high competitive capacity, Mr Tuan said it is essential to revamp tourism-related mechanisms and legal policies, deal with inter-sector issues, develop tourism products bearing Vietnamese trademarks, promote advertising activities, sharpen competitiveness and modernise tourism infrastructure.
A number of solutions for tourism development were worked out at a recent national seminar on Vietnam's tourism development in international integration. Many people said that Vietnamese tourism should be based on its cultural foundation with investment and development priority given to a number of key tourism sites such as Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Van Don-Ha Long-Cat Ba, Da Lat, Hue and Hoi An instead of the current investment in 150 national and international tourism sites.
Vietnam's deeper integration into the world economy has offered a wealth of development opportunities while posing a lot of difficulties and challenges for the tourism sector. The country has set a target of attracting 12 million foreign tourists and 35 million domestic ones by 2020.
The upcoming 1000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi will provide an excellent opportunity for Vietnam's tourism to tap into its potential and advantages to make a greater contribution the country's economic development and international integration.