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Tourism sector seeks clear world image

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Vietnam’s tourism sector is anticipating 7-8 million foreign arrivals on average a year for the next 10 years, but it is struggling to find an image to increase those figures.

In the first seven months of the year, the sector’s growth rate was steady at 10.6 percent, under the industry’s target of 19 percent. Nguyen Van Binh from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) said that world-wide inflation led to the disappointing figures. Tourists tended to either cancel their tours, or skip uninteresting destinations on scheduled tours, as a way to reduce spending.

The sector is now looking to pull more visitors into Vietnam . One of those solutions is to enhance advertising in key markets. Priority has been given to building a brand name for national tourism.

Yip Hoong Mun, deputy managing director of CapitaLand Vietnam Holdings said that Vietnam has a lot of potential to develop its tourism industry, but is still a “hidden charm”, adding that it was time for the nation to develop strategies to bring Vietnam closer to its international friends.

Industry experts have continually expressed that Vietnam is in need of a clear message to convey its beauty to potential tourists, as well as offer unique tourism products to travellers.

VNAT, in its development strategy, is aiming to turn the country into one of the world’s most fascinating destinations by 2010.

Businesses operating in tourism stressed the importance of building an image for their development. Vo Anh Tai, director of Saigontourist Travel Company, said it is necessary for the country to develop a brand name.

Tai emphasised that any slogan must ring true to gain trust from visitors, while Nguyen Phu Duc, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said the more prestigious a brand name is, the more travellers will come to the destination.

Tran Chien Thang, deputy minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism and head of the Tourism Department, said that the sector plans to advertise the image of Vietnam on new international networks such as CNN, Chinese television channels, Korean channel – KBS, Japanese channel –NHK, Discovery as well as in newspapers in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia.

Despite these planned efforts, the sector has yet to identify strategic tourism products in its advertising campaigns, according to officers from the VNAT. The cultural and eco-tourism aspects, which are considered as Vietnam’s strengths, seem vague and not memorable to visitors.

Even if they are successful in attracting visitors, travel companies will still be hard pressed to meet visitors’ demands if infrastructure is not good enough. The attractiveness of a destination and its supporting services are vital for the success of every travel firm.

In addition to improving the quality of services, tourism products and communication, visitors also need to feel at ease during their visits. Agents noted that many tourists feel uncomfortable when followed by beggars and street vendors.

A lack of unique tourism products has been an obstacle for the picture of Vietnam. Limited high quality hotels and poor entertainment places deter tourists from coming to Vietnam. It is estimated that a visitor spends from 1,200 USD to 1,500 USD in Thailand, 2,000 USD in Singapore and only 900 USD in Vietnam.

He also argued that the industry should collaborate with other ministries in order to improve the quality of infrastructure. Tourism areas and resorts needed to incorporate international standards.

Efforts must be made to increase investment in the training of tourism professionals. The sector has been speeding up promotion campaigns in central and local levels, as well as in businesses.

While these issues are being addressed, Vietnam still expects to lure around 6 million foreign arrivals in 2010, according to statistics released by the Tourism Association.