The statistics of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) showed that the total international visitors in the first five months of 2019 reached 7.3 million, up 8.8 per cent for the same period last year.
The growth rate, however, is considerable slower than that of prior years, which saw international visitors in 2018 rise 27.6 per cent and in 2017 nearly 30 per cent for the first five month period.
During the National Assembly meeting held last week, Minister of Culture Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien attributed the slow growth of tourism to the declining number of Chinese tourists.
VNAT revealed that visitors from China reduced by nearly one per cent in the first five months. This decrease is totally opposed to the whooping increase in Chinese tourists of 37 per cent and nearly 60 per cent during the same period in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
“If the number of Chinese visitors does not soar, Vietnam tourism will likely be in trouble. All countries over the world want to attract visitors from the China,” Thien said.
Nha Trang, one of the tourist spots that attracted a large number of Chinese visitors in the past few years, has unfortunately witnessed a decline in arrivals from China, according to Le Van Son, general director of Liberty Central Nha Trang and vice chairman of the Nha Trang - Khanh Hoa Tourism Association.
“The number of Korean tourists has increased significantly, but this does not make up for the decline caused by the Chinese market,” Son said.
Data from Khanh Hoa Department of Tourism showed that in the first quarter of the year, the number of Korean tourists has tripled over the same period last year, reaching nearly 44,000 arrivals.
Visitors from Korea to Vietnam also grew by 22.4 per cent, reaching 1.76 million in the first five months.
The growth in Korean tourists and the increase of the Japanese and European arrivals could not help Vietnam tourism maintain its impressive growth rate as once happened in previous years.
Chinese market, in fact, has accounted for one third of the total number of international visitors to Vietnam.
Son stated that the decline in the number of Chinese visitors came partly from the lack of ‘golden hour’ flight schedules that fit Chinese customers’ demand.
Focusing on the domestic market is the fastest short-term solution to perk up the tourism growth in Vietnam in the time being, according to Son.
In order to reduce the dependence on one or several markets, Vietnam should attract tourists from other big markets like the US or EU through a more favorable visa policy.
Expanding the list of visa-exempt countries to include all those with whom Vietnam has the FTAs, including all EU countries, significant trading or investment partners and targeted inbound tourism markets is the recommendation that EuroCham wrote in its White Book 2019.