By PHAM MANH HA
On the occasion of the year-end Tourism meeting 2016, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked five questions of Vietnamese Tourism: How to attract more foreign tourists visiting Vietnam? How to keep foreign visitors staying in Vietnam longer? How to make foreign tourists spend more money in Vietnam? How to make them come back to Vietnam sooner? And, how to make foreign tourists tell their friends and their families more about Vietnam? These questions are no longer new, but real solutions have yet to be found. To seek some answers, Discover Nha Trang was very lucky to meet with Sir Pham Manh Ha (CEO of Luxury Travel Vietnam).
There are some weaknesses in Vietnamese tourism that are very easy to identify in areas such as regulation, policy, products, people, promotion and advertising programs. To improve these areas, Vietnam really needs a professional conductor, as the recent “Tourism Symphony” is like a band in chaos. Each local “Tourism Musician” has been singing its own tune without working in synch with the other players. So many destinations still maintain a bad image and suffer from different issues such as air pollution, petty crime, violence, and traffic congestion that is just not appealing to tourists. Besides that, each local region has not made their strongest efforts to strengthen their advantages in developing tourism and creating its personal brand. Moreover, it is also difficult to promote water and sea tourism because of asynchronous infrastructure and the lack of a tourism marina.
Regarding specific sections of travel services, most destinations have not succeeded in differentiating themselves to attract the tourists. On the other hand, to attract more visitors, it is critical to figure out the target market. Particularly, if we want to encourage the luxury market including European, Australian and American tourists, then a prohibition on building a cable car in ecotourism sites such as at Phong Nha should be approved. Primitive forests should be protected, the ocean should be kept clean, and other tourist destinations should be maintained as beautiful, friendly and civilized places.
Fundamentally, a key factor for tourism success is for business’ to understand exactly what their customers want, so that they can be provided with the best services. It is also important to keep creating more great experiences for tourists such as providing more sightseeing attractions, shopping malls, various types of local souvenirs, increasing the opening time of entertainment destinations like Casinos. In particular, Hanoi should pay more attention to developing tourism sites that involve River tours while Nha Trang, as well as HCMC, should have marinas on the sea and the river.
Moreover, Vietnamese Tourism should pay attention to the high-income tourists, or the old visitors who come from developed countries like Japan and Korea, and who have a high demand for leisure traveling or medical tourism packages during their retirement. For me, Vietnam could be a fantastic retirement destination for retiring tourists if the pieces are put in place to make the process easy. The lack of a retirement visa is also a big barrier to attracting this type of visitor.
Regarding advertising and promotional missions, for me, the strongest pull factor of Vietnamese Tourism is the culture, culinary diversity and especially its beautiful natural scenery. I don’t particularly like the slogan “Vietnam Timeless Charm” because it contributes nothing to distinguish Vietnamese Tourism from our regional neighbors. I think being unique and different is highly relevant in tourism development. Nowadays, when conducting promotional missions, some local regions do not even know what their strengths are when introducing themselves to new markets. For that reason, most of them are still presented simply as a “Destination” instead of what “Experiences” they can provide their visitors.
Finally, it is necessary to improve entertainment activities with a clear plan on how to improve this service area develop tourism. The airlines should open more direct flights to tourism target destinations, provide better ticket prices, and improve VIP services for high-class guests. The marinas should have facilities for tourism boats so that the visitors can travel by boat from the North to the South of Vietnam. Hydroplanes could take off and land from Hồ Tây instead of Noi Bai Airport. All free Tourist visa should be extended to 30 days as well.
About the human element: to become a tourism nation, all Vietnamese people need to know how to run the tourism business, from customs officers to cyclo drivers, all of them should know how to smile, how to say thank you and how to support the visitors. For those who work in hospitality, they should understand how the working standards relate to specific skills and attitudes. Local residents should carry friendly messages, should be honest and collectively, be great tourism representatives.