Last year, Vietnam welcomed 284,855 foreign visitors travelling by sea, a year-on-year increase of 67.7% while the number of foreign tourists coming by air grew by 31.7% but by land dropped 2.3%. The first nine months of this year alone have seen 189,897 foreigners arrive in Vietnam by cruise ship.
Lack of special ports
Vietnam certainly has the potential to become a great destination for cruise holidays as the country boasts long coastlines and stunning beaches. However the potential is not being fully tapped due to a lack of infrastructure. There is no special port for big international cruise ships to dock at, resulting in many tour operators not include Vietnam in their itineraries, said Vo Anh Tai, General Director of Saigontourist.
Nguyen Van Tuan, General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said the World Tourism Organization forecast that cruise ship tourism will develop strongly in Asia by 2020. In fact, many big shipping companies have already launched cruise tours of the Asia-Pacific region and it is considered an attractive market.
Nguyen Huu Tho, Chair of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said the cruise ship tourism market would continue to grow rapidly and stably in the near future. To take full advantage of this opportunity, Vietnam should build some special and modern tourism ports, which have the capacity to receive luxury cruise ships and also offer high quality retail and entertainment services for passengers.
Travel agents and localities should develop their own tourism products closely attached to coastal areas to bring about higher quality attractions for visitors, Mr Tho added.
Improving infrastructure and developing new products and services
Mr Tuan underscored that Vietnam is an attractive destination for round the world luxury cruise ships. This is manifested in the increasing number of cruise passengers to the country in recent times. However, Vietnam’s vast potential is still not being met. To attract more cruise tours, the country need to continue to simplify policies, improve infrastructure and develop new tourism products and services.
At present, cruise ships use some cargo ports to dock but in the long run, Vietnam must build ports specifically for them. Furthermore, other services must be developed and existing ones improved for cruise passengers such as city tours, entertainment and shopping locations at port towns where ships dock.
There must be major investment to improve infrastructure and facilities, but so far only a few businesses have invested in the field due to high expense.
A representative from Saigontourist said travel agents must offer onshore services to meet high requirements of cruise passengers. However, the reality is that most Vietnamese businesses are independent and financially weak. Thus, despite great potential the market remains totally out of Vietnamese businesses’ reach.