The tourism sector targets annual revenues of US$30 billion and a 10 percent share of GDP by 2020, according to a plan by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Vietnam earned VND338 trillion ($15.1 billion) last year as it attracted more than 7.9 million international visitors and 57 million domestic tourists. It attracted more than 4.7 million international visitors in the first half of this year, a 21 percent increase year-on-year.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien said Vietnam hopes to attract 14-15 million international visitors a year by 2020 and create around 3.5 million jobs in the tourism sector.
“Those targets are totally feasible because we are going to have many opportunities for development. The target is equal to only half of Thailand’s while our recent investment will bring effects.”
Thien was introducing the plan at a conference held between the central government and authorities from nine major tourism localities nation-wide.
Many officials said there should be changes in the mindset of officials to achieve the target of turning Vietnam into a tourism country within four years.
Van Thi Bach Tuyet, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, said there is a lack of coordination between tourism and other agencies.
“In HCMC, waterway tourism faces barriers after the transport sector did not think about tourism when building low bridges.”
Dang Dinh Dung, Da Nang’s deputy mayor, said almost every city and province wants to promote international tourism in their locality without thinking about Vietnam as a whole.
Mindset, not money
Thien said the government only approves spending of around $2 million a year for tourism promotion, which is even lower than Vietnam Airlines’s budget to promote its image.
“Besides, the tourism promotion department and tourism offices abroad should be re-established.”
But Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue said changing the mindset of tourism management officials should be the major focus because money is not the primary element for development.
“The Hue Citadel earns less than $5 million a year while Cambodia’s Angkor Wat earns $360 million and Hawaii earns $65 billion. Why do we earn such meager amount?”
According to Asia Pacific Tourism Association, only 6 percent of international tourists visiting Vietnam come for a second time.
“The primary issue is the way to develop tourism, not money or the number of personnel,” Hue said.
Dung said the government exchequer should not be used to promote tourism.
“Tourism companies should spend their own money for effective tourism promotion. Only then will they learn about the market’s demands and what they should do.”