Vietnam tourism needs visionaries, professionals

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Foreign tourists cross a road in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Tourists from different countries are attracted by different aspects of a country, and promotion campaigns should pay heed to this, a tour operator says.

For promoting Vietnam effectively as a tourism destination, both the private sector and the government should be involved. There are many individuals in our industry in Vietnam who have a wide range of experience and knowledge and this resource is never utilized.  

I suggest that when the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) creates a travel promotion campaign for the country, it consults with professionals and considers their ideas.  Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore all have a board of professionals from various parts of the industry (hoteliers, airlines, agents, tour operators, travel management companies etc.).  They all contribute and present their ideas in open forums and, collectively, contribute greatly to the development of the tourism industry in their respective destinations.

Vietnam certainly does not have that and is therefore, far weaker in promoting itself. We have to remember that a travel destination has to be marketed and promoted to a country based on the actual culture of that country. Different countries perceive Vietnam in different ways and are not always necessarily attracted to the same things.  Promotions and marketing campaigns need to be specifically targeted towards the mindset of the target audience and to do so professionally and efficiently you need to obtain the advice of those with long experience in managing these markets.

Vietnam as a travel destination is attractive to British, French, Australian, American, Japanese and Russian tourists for different reasons. Not everyone comes to spend 10 days by the beach, and not everyone comes to spend 10 days visiting just the main sites. It cannot be said enough that professionals already in charge of these markets should really be consulted for their ideas before blindly applying the same weak cultural shows across all market segments time and time again.

You can build market attraction even with the limited budget Vietnam has, so long as it is carefully targeted. Also, when we think of tourism to Vietnam, in general, we think of the typical leisure traveler, but the reality is that the scope is much greater. River and ocean cruising is a huge business in Vietnam and is growing at a fast pace, for instance.

Corporate incentives, conferences and meetings are also important players in our industry but, as most people tend to consider this as travelling for business reasons, they neglect to understand how many people take part in leisure activities outside of the business element. 

Many expatriates have written to Vietweek concurring that despite the problems they face in Vietnam, it is simply not acceptable that people direct their anger and slurs at all Vietnamese. This forum, "Your two cents", opens the floor for you, the expats, to hold forth on the changes you see in Vietnam: what disappoints, what pleases and what you would like to see happen. Email your thoughts to editor@thanhniennews.com. We reserve the right to edit your submissions for reasons of space and clarity.

Additionally, these types of customers spend a great deal more money in a shorter period of time, therefore generating excellent revenue across the hospitality industry in Vietnam. This is a substantial part of our business and is the greatest source of revenue for most major hotels.  The meetings and incentive industry is growing once more but receives little, if any, support from VNAT and the national airlines.

I believe we should be promoting Vietnam as a high quality destination because there are a growing number of quality resources in Vietnam and this is where higher revenues and sustainability comes into play. There is little need to promote cheap beach resorts when, in fact, most are very poorly managed, degraded and inferior compared to other locations in the Asia region. Eventually these areas will become completely destroyed, as we are already seeing, and visitors will be driven away.  

People can always buy a cheap travel product anywhere in the world, but if they want to buy quality, it takes a quality marketing campaign. Only then can we attract those individuals that want to spend money but, naturally, expect a certain standard for it. That standard is available in Vietnam but is rarely apparent to most visitors unless their knowledge comes from high quality media publications overseas. It is certainly not the impression most get from VNAT sponsored activities.

It is also extremely important that, for the future, VNAT employs open minded, overseas educated, creative Vietnamese to bring about a fresh change to the way Vietnam is marketed. Like any business, it has to constantly evolve and allow room for others to bring in their experience and their ideas. No business can rely on the ways of 10 years ago. 

And every business needs a driver, a visionary, to bring about change and direction. Without that person or persons in your business, there is nowhere to go. It applies to Vietnam's tourism industry as much as it does to our company.

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