Tuesday, April 22, 2008

With a little improvement, Vietnam will become one of the world’s favorite destinations, according to recently appointed acting chief of the Vietnam N

With a little improvement, Vietnam will become one of the world’s favorite destinations, according to recently appointed acting chief of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Nguyen Quoc Ky.
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Acting Chief Nguyen Quoc Ky told Thanh Nien that despite problems such as the lack of marketing plans, inadequate services and a hotel shortage, Vietnam’s tourism sector has enormous potential.
Thanh Nien: An old question for a new appointee: What is the biggest challenge facing Vietnamese tourism?
Nguyen Quoc Ky
Nguyen Quoc Ky: We are yet to market our country and destinations in a professional and systematic way.
To do this, not only do we need money, we also need the know-how.
Vietnam is a potentially attractive location, ranked one of the 20 favorite destinations last year by well-known travel magazine Conde Nast Traveller.
Everybody knows tourism is a hen with golden eggs, so to speak.
But the question is how to raise the hen with the golden eggs.
How effective was the recent travel clip on CNN promoting Vietnam?
The important thing is not that we advertised on CNN, but what we did after CNN, so to speak.
Advertising is just the first step in attracting international visitors’ attention to Vietnam.
After running ads, if we did not carry out many other activities to promote our destinations and country, the ads would merely be a pebble thrown into water, if you will.
Eighty-five percent of foreign tourists visiting Vietnam do not return. Does this alarm you?
We shouldn’t be too alarmed by this figure, which should be broken down further.
Of these people who do not return, how many are from “near” locations, that is less than a five-hour flight away from Vietnam, and how many are from “far” places, or 10 to 20 hours away.
If 10 percent of the tourists from far locations revisit Vietnam within a year, we are successful.
And when we calculate the percentage [of those who do not return] we should consider a longer lapse in time, for instance from three to five years.
I am an example.
I have visited many countries including my favorite places, Italy, the US and South Africa.
But it will be perhaps 10 years before I revisit them – because of time and financial constraints.
Nonetheless, we have to admit that our tourism services are not good or systemic.
For example, foreign tourists to Vietnam often have to spend too much time sleeping [as our entertainment facilities must be closed after midnight], and find nothing more to enjoy in a place after just two days.
Other problems, including a lack of sanitation and overcharging, are also plaguing local tourism.
I totally support the concept of “clean tourism” which Vietnam is pursuing.
Yet, at the same time, we should consider developing tourism in places which would not affect native people and culture, such as Phu Quoc Island, so foreign tourists can spend more time here.
What about Vietnam’s overstrained and expensive hotels?
It is simply demand surpassing supply here.
Solving this problem requires us to identify our priority tourism products.
At present, there are an increasing number of high-spending tourists, so we should target this group of customers.
At the same time, we should invest in building more hotel rooms to ease the present strain.
This must be planned in detail.
We should not be too panicked about reducing hotel room prices.
Once we reduce the gap between supply and demand, prices will go down to more reasonable levels.
Travel companies in Vietnam do not seem very interested in what the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism has been doing. What are your thoughts on that?
I’m sure things are changing.
The reason is that now it is part of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the ministry is responsible for its administrative affairs.
The agency is now devoted to its professional affairs which will be more efficiently done.
It will take the initiative to reach out and listen to businesses - rather than the other way around - to promote Vietnam so it will no longer be just “a potential destination.”
How many international tourists are expected to arrive in Vietnam this year?
From 4.8-5 million. But this number does not say it all.
What is more important is how much our tourism revenues will be.
This year’s estimate is around US$4 billion.
If we know how to raise the hen, it will lay more golden eggs and this figure will be much higher.
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