|Hoi An ancient town is a UNESCO heritage site and a popular tourist destination in central Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/Hong Anh.
The other five countries in contention for the award were Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia.
The recognition of Vietnam as the world's leading heritage destination reaffirms the country's efforts to preserve cultural heritages and boost its status on global tourism map, the WTA stated.
Vietnam is home to eight world heritage sites recognized by UNESCO: the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An ancient town and the Complex of Hue Monuments in central Vietnam; and Ha Long Bay, Trang An Landscape Complex, Thang Long Imperial Citadel and the Ho Dynasty Citadel in the northern region.
The heritage sites and other destinations have repeatedly won acclaim from prestigious travel magazines in recent years.
The WTA has been called the "travel industry's equivalent of the Oscars" by The Wall Street Journal. The winners are chosen based on votes by the public and travel professionals across the globe.
Vietnam was also named as the world’s best golf destination at the WTA awards ceremony.
According to the Vietnam Professional Golf Association, there were over 70,000 people playing golf as a leisure sport in 2018, up from 10,000 in 2009. The country has more than 30 golf courses of regional and international standards.
2019 is a bumper year for Vietnam’s tourism industry, with the country reaping a rich harvest of prestigious awards.
Vietnam was chosen Asia’s leading culinary destination at the WTA awards ceremony for Asia and Oceania last October. It also received the world’s best golf destination 2019 award at the international World Golf Awards held in the UAE the same month.
The number of foreigners visiting Vietnam in the first 11 months of this year is estimated at 16.3 million, up 15.3 percent from a year ago, according to the General Statistics Office's latest data. As the year comes to a close, its tourism industry is well placed to meet its annual target of receiving 18 million visitors.
Tourism last year contributed 8.39 percent to Vietnam’s GDP. The government seeks to make the industry an economic spearhead.
With visa waivers for several countries in Asia and Europe, the government expects the country to welcome around 20 million foreign visitors in 2020 and earn $35 billion in annual revenue, equivalent to 10 percent of GDP, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).