The strategy was laid out by Ha Van Sieu, deputy director general of VNAT, during a seminar on September 9 in Ho Chi Minh City. In attendance were key personnel of both public and private sector tourism organizations from Vietnam, the US and Canada.
Mr Sieu said the track record for attracting tourism from the North American continent has been dismal in the past, having attracted only 600,000 inbound tourists from the market in 2015.
However, despite the poor showing, he believes there are some things that can be done, which could lead to growth – including developing new tourism products, promoting additional direct flights, more promotional discounts on hotel accommodations and training of human capital to name only a few.
The Caribbean and Cuba, in particular, have been prioritized he stressed, noting that Cuba is strategically positioned to help the country auger and grow its North American tourism base by enabling better air travel arrangements with airlines and facilitating multi-destination marketing in the region.
Regarding investments and partnerships, Mr Sieu told those in attendance that while foreign direct investment would be pursued to build large hotels, there will also be heavy focus on convincing local small Vietnamese companies to invest in the industry.
This, he said, could be achieved by transforming small hotels and private homes to meet the needs of special needs travellers and other groups from North America as well as getting other local smallholders to invest in tourism via restaurants, boutiques, souvenir sales, handicraft shops and the like.
Elaborating on the renewal of human capital, the Deputy Director said tourism and hospitality service development is a key element. The country must better educate the workforce through improved hospitality training especially in the areas of language and interpersonal skills.
Oliver Martin, an expert from the Canadian Tourism Commission in turn suggested that to attract more inbound tourists from North America, travel agencies should shift their emphasis from promoting the larger metropolitan areas to touting the diverse ethnic cultures.
Travel agencies should also veer away from promoting cheap backpacker type travel and street food and focus on catering to the higher income middle class who can afford to travel and stay in the finer hotels and eat at the best restaurants.
These tourists not only spend more money during their travels, they are more likely candidates for repeat visitations, he noted.