Vietnam grapples with getting tourists to visit again

Vietnam’s return rate is clocked at five percent next to Thailand’s 50 percent. Source: Shutterstock/Tony Duy

FOR a country with endlessly charming cities and a universally loved cuisine, Vietnam’s tourist return rate is astonishingly low.

In 2016, the country welcomed 10 million overseas tourists, but a report suggested 70 percent of them do not return due to the prospects of theft, congestion, poor food hygiene and pollution. For perspective, Vietnam’s return rate is clocked at five percent next to Thailand’s 50 percent.

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) head Nguyen Van Tuan told VietNamNet: “Only a few bad cases are needed to tarnish the image of Vietnam because information now spreads at high speed via the Internet. Localities must pay more attention to ensure tourist safety and policies must be better.”

However, travel agencies say the state budget for promoting Vietnam as a premier destination is too low compared with neighbors Cambodia and Laos, and other countries in the Asean region.

Vietnam spends US$2 million on tourist promotions compared to Malaysia’s US$69 million, Singapore’s US$80 million, and Thailand’s US$105 million.

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Vietravel head Nguyen Quoc Ky told VietNamNet the government’s efforts to drive tourism were outdated, and a fresher outlook is needed to discuss open visa policies and support for start-ups.

According to Forbes, this is being repaired with a new proposal by the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry that puts forward a motion to increase spending to US$5.25 million, as well as to establish a fund for tourism promotion with a seed investment of US$13 million.

This week, the VNAT will embark on a program in China to lure tourists and participation from travel agents.

A separate VietNamNet report said China remained Vietnam’s leading tourist market as it welcomed 2.6 million Chinese holidaymakers in 2016, up 51.4 percent against the previous year.