The higher numbers of travellers from these markets on both business and tourism trips directly contributed to the cumulative total number of inbound arrivals to Vietnam for 2016 spiking to 133% of last year’s figure to 10 million.
However, if one looks at the revenue generated as a percentage of gross national product (GDP), travel is still relatively inconsequential compared against the manufacturing, retail and other sectors of the economy.
To be certain, if the travel industry is to grow sustainably and become important to the Vietnam economy, say the experts, much more need be done to overcome problems in a wide array of areas.
Statistics from the tourism ministry, show that more than 70% of international travellers that visit the country never return— amid concerns surrounding personal security, traffic congestion, vehicular accidents and abhorrent pollution along with substandard services and facilities.
On a positive note, airport infrastructure is seen by the experts as the number one driver of international and domestic travel growth.
As airports are constructed and improved, investment in other areas such as hotels will follow, they say. Tan Son Nhat is earmarked for an infrastructure investment to bring its capacity from 20 to 26 million passengers annually.
A new airport in Long Thanh is expected to start construction in 2021 that is designed to accommodate 100 million passengers annually. That’s four times the number Tan Son Nhat brings in today.
On the airline side, Vietnam Airlines’ continues to grow its international reputation. It recently earned a 4-star SKYTRAX rating. It’s introducing new operations to London Heathrow and new airplanes like the state of the art Airbus A350 to Paris Charles De Gaulle.
There’s a huge investment emphasis on Vietnam’s coastline with Nha Trang, Da Nang, Phan Thiet, and Phu Quoc all expected to see monumental expansion in new development projects over the next 1-2 years.
Other experts say they are expecting growth for the beach towns near Ho Chi Minh City, noting that the Thai city of Pattaya, just 100 kilometres from Bangkok, has seen double-digit growth in the last few years as demand for weekend getaways pick up from locals.
If all the stars line-up, they say, Ho Chi Minh City could be just as successful in attracting foreign travellers.
In addition, Vung Tau and Mui Ne are expected to grow similarly as domestic travel demand increases. It would be great if these cities could muster as many inbound travellers as Pattaya, Thailand, which at one point was believed to have a combined 60 million domestic and international visitors annually.
As more of Vietnam comes online and enters the middle class, the experts say, the hospitality industry is beginning to adopt technologies that allow them to better serve and communicate with their customers.
Investment in tech for the hospitality industry is expected to increase. Adoption of channels such as online distribution for selling hotel rooms and guest experience tools are gaining popularity.
To attract these ever-important visitors, to visit Vietnam, the country must, however, perfect its sales pitch, say the experts.
Many leaders in the public and private sectors want to send a message that Vietnam is a country that has a modern and progressive lifestyle with people who are creative and bringing new ideas and creations.
But Vietnam still has its work cut out for it. For most of the globe, when they make their travel plans, Vietnam is still not on the list.