Friendly visa policies help VN greet more big spenders

Thursday, Nov 07, 2019 08:53

Hoang Nhan Chinh

Experts told Viet Nam News reporter Nguyen Linh Anh about the preferential visa treatment and policies that Viet Nam needs to promote itself abroad.

Hoang Nhan Chinh, head of the Viet Nam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) secretariat

Viet Nam has experienced a boom in tourism over the past decade as the country climbed four places in WEF tourism competitiveness ranking. However, recent data shows Viet Nam still reports low rates of repeat visits. Why is this?

Viet Nam ranks 63rd among 140 countries and territories in the recently released Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2019 released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), jumping four places from the latest 2017 ranking. Compared to regional peers, Viet Nam has achieved the largest overall improvement in competitiveness as other competitors just stepped up three places or even receded.

The country had the largest strides in ICT readiness, international openness, safety and security, and ground and port infrastructure.

However, Viet Nam still lags the rest of the region considerably with regards to its tourist service and air transport infrastructure, weakness in environmental sustainability, the lack of product and location diversification, transport and services infrastructure and low-skilled labour force. In international openness, Viet Nam’s visa regime, which has been liberalised somewhat in recent years, still lags compared to the relatively more open visa policies of key regional competitors.

These patterns of tourism development threaten to negatively affect the quality of the visitor experience in many of Viet Nam’s destinations, contributing to low rates of repeat visits. The share of repeat international visitors to Viet Nam stood at about 32-40 per cent in 2017, which is low compared to key regional competitors such as Thailand, where 60-70 per cent of international arrivals in 2016 were returning visitors, and Indonesia, which had 55 per cent repeat visitors in 2016.

What are the visa hassles that hold back Viet Nam's tourism sector?

Viet Nam currently grants visa-free travel to nationals of 26 countries. This compares to visa-free travel for 57 nationalities to Thailand, 168 nationalities to Indonesia, 162 nationalities to Malaysia and 132 nationalities to the Philippines. Viet Nam has introduced an electronic visa system for citizens from 80 countries.

The 15-day limit for travel has also puzzled tourists from long-distance European countries. They say a complete tour should be 20 to 30 days to take in the main sights in Viet Nam.

Therefore, TAB suggests more flexible measures be adopted, such as extending the visa waiver to 30 days.

Not to mention, there is a high risk of inaccuracy in sources of information guiding visa applications for foreigners. According to a poll by TAB, 15 per cent of foreign visitors asked for information from their embassies, 14 per cent through the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism, 26 per cent through travel agencies, and the rest get it from informal channels or through the internet.

Viet Nam should also focus on attracting foreign visitors from Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand who tend to travel longer and spend more on holidays.

Tran Trong Kien

Tran Trong Kien, Chairman of the National Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), Chairman and CEO of Thien Minh Group

Some have argued that most international visitors to Viet Nam originate from Northeast Asia, who tend to have a short length of stay and spend less than visitors from the longer-haul markets such as Europe and the US, which could harm the tourism sector in the long-term. What’s your opinion?

The vast majority of international visitors to Viet Nam originate from Northeast Asia, especially China, South Korea and Japan. These three countries accounted for 60 per cent of Viet Nam’s international arrivals in 2018.

In the first nine months of 2019, international arrivals to Viet Nam reached 12.9 million, of which visitors from China accounted for a significant amount of 30.9 per cent.

It is fortunate for Viet Nam to welcome such a large amount of visitors from Northeast Asian countries, whose economies are growing very fast. Our location allows us to greet these visitors. I believe they are strategic markets of Viet Nam.

The point is we must find ways to effectively exploit these markets. For example, China is growing very fast and I am sure there are many Chinese tourists who are willing to pay a lot. Our job is to access these tourists.

What needs to be done to boost the image of Viet Nam and promote the country’s tourism?

We must attach great important to enhancing visitors’ experience. Every foreigner coming to Viet Nam having a good experience will share it to five or six other potential visitors. Now we are greeting some 18 million international arrivals annually, which means we could welcome 70 million potential clients in the future.

Marketing and promotion must also be increasingly targeted at relatively higher-spending visitor source markets.

New and higher-quality tourism products need to be developed, both to encourage visitors to spend more but also to stay longer. This will also help address current visitor perceptions that Viet Nam lacks tourism product variety and encourage a higher share of repeat visitors. — VNS

Comments (0)