An HSBC report recently highlighted how the growth of tourism in Vietnam is continuing to help the national economy and hence logically the development of the Country. Vietnam’s location and relative cheapness has meant that overseas visitors are finding real value in Vietnam tour packages and the word is clearly spreading. While other parts of the economy face challenges, Vietnam has the advantage over many other countries; it is earning substantial foreign currency from tourism.
Hanoi alone earned $3 billion from tourism in 2016, a rise of 13% and there is optimism of steady growth until the end of the decade. That optimism is reflected in a recent WIN/Gallup poll that identified that Vietnam was ranked fifth in the world for its optimism on economic growth. There were 700 respondents in the survey from within Vietnam, living in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, each of whom answered questions, face to face. Almost 60% of those respondents expected growth with just over 10% taking a pessimistic view of the future. The world figure was just 42% expecting growth, 22% recession. There is still the legacy of the world recession in parts of the world but in Vietnam only a small number of people are concerned about what the future will bring.
Government and tourism agencies realise that there is work to be done to ensure that tourism growth is achieved. There are good Vietnam tour operators already catering for those that want a Vietnam holiday. Some of the new work involves developing infrastructure, other elements are administrative changes and support. Culture and festival promotion are part of the marketing programme which also involve marketing through Internet, trade fairs and the like. It is a real delight to be enjoying a Vietnam travel package that includes attending a festival or indeed any celebration. National costumes come out and Vietnamese music and dance make the whole occasion really special.
The predictions of growth in 2017 got off to a good start with many different regions reporting significant number of both foreign and local tourists. It is important to remember that during the holiday period Vietnam was able to welcome its 10 millionth foreign visitor of 2016. All and indications, as well as aims, are that 2017 will be even better, perhaps by a significant margin? Hanoi reported a large rise in foreign visitors for the New Year holiday compared to last year; there were over 50,000 overseas arrivals on New Year’s Day alone.That was the case in many other parts of the Country because there is something in every region to see and do:
• Hanoi’s impressive start to the New Year was mentioned above. It has plenty to offer ranging from the traditional architecture mixed with French colonial structures, temples and street vendors selling food from their stalls. The Hoan Kiem Lake is popular with visitors and locals alike.
• Halong Bay has over 2,000 islands, houses on stilts where fishermen and their families live, a ‘’must see’’ for anyone visiting Vietnam.
• The Northern Highlands and the Sapa Terraces are due north of Hanoi. This poor region contains hill tribes whose lives have changed little for generations. It is a place not only to enjoy the natural environment but also to observe daily life, hard as it is, yet the people are happy.
• Danang is the gateway to the central region of Vietnam. It is a busy port with its own international airport and good connections to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It suffered significant damage during the Vietnam War incidentally. From Danang there are plenty of places to go.
• Hue was the Imperial Capital of the Nguyen Dynasty with plenty to see for those interested in history.
• Likewise, Hoi Ain is an even older capital, the home of the Champa Kingdom which traded with other countries such as Indonesia many centuries earlier.
• Vietnam has an extensive coastline and there are some lovely beaches in the central part of Vietnam to enjoy.
• Ho Chi Minh City is often the starting point for overseas visitors beginning a Vietnam holiday. As Saigon, it was the Capital of South Vietnam until the country was unified four decades ago. It is larger than Hanoi and very much the commercial hub of Vietnam; there are plenty of skyscrapers but that does not mean you will not find street vendors, markets and temples.
• The Mekong River is to the west. The Delta is fascinating and well worth exploring. There are narrow channels, quiet backwaters where villages live a simple life. Some are farmers, others fishermen. The River flows down into Vietnam having started on the Tibetan Plateau. The Mekong features in Vietnam tour packages as well as those covering neighbouring countries because it is an ever present in the other countries of Indochina, Laos and Cambodia.
• Some people’s interest in taking a Vietnam travel package is the Vietnam War. The Cu Chi Tunnels that the Vietcong used during the War are just north of Ho Chi Minh City. You can even go down them if you have the right build; they are low and narrow.
• Phu Quoc Island off the Cambodian Coast is quickly gaining a reputation for being a great resort. Vietnam’s 10 millionth visitor of 2016 landed at its international airport, a sign of the future perhaps?
Some of the New Year arrivals were from neighbouring countries but nationalities including Americans, Australians and French came in significant numbers as well as people from South Korea and Japan. Having greeted the 10 millionth visitor, it was felt that it was important to greet the first of 2017; it was Thomas Bauche with his family from Germany who were welcomed with gifts and music. He said it was his second visit to Vietnam and he intended to stay three weeks. That illustrates one of the appeals of the Country; it almost demands people to return because there is so much to see.
It is early days to suggest that Vietnam will reach all its targets. It is predicting growth each year until the end of the decade and beyond. With the highlights mentioned above and the genuine warmth of the people, there is every reason for optimism.