Vietnam to pitch itself as a shopping destination

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The latest national tourism promotion campaign will have a strong focus on shopping in order to entice more spending by local and foreign tourists, officials say.

This year's "Vietnam -Your Destination" campaign plans to offer more shopping tour options to visitors, establishing more shopping centers at tourism sites, said Vu The Binh, head of the Travel Department under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).

Thailand and Malaysia have succeeded in developing shopping tourism with big sales programs, making great contributions to on-site exports and enabling reduced tour prices as sellers pay commissions to travel agents.

Up to 51 percent of spending by visitors to Thailand is on shopping, while the percentage in Vietnam is only 10-14 percent, Binh said.

To develop shopping-based tourism in the country, the VNAT will launch the "Impressive Vietnam Grand Sale 2010" program in the three major cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang in August and September, he added.

Under the program, visitors will be offered discounts of 10-50 percent when shopping at some tourism sites in the cities. They will also get VAT (value-added-tax) refunds, discount cards and/or shopping coupons at some supermarkets, souvenir shops, hotels, and tourism sites.

Some lottery programs will also be held at shopping centers for tourists, while shopping streets, handicraft streets and food streets will be set up in the three cities.

The VNAT will work with the departments of industry and trade in the cities to make lists of the program's participants and products in order to produce promotional leaflets.

Do Xuan Ha, deputy head of the Trade Promotion Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said shopping brochures with contact details of shops offering discounts will be distributed among visitors soon.

Since it is being implemented for the first time this year, the program selects only prestigious trade centers and big shops for participation. Participants who sell fake or low quality products will be heavily fined, Ha said.

However, deputy head of the VNAT, Nguyen Quang Phuong, admitted that Vietnamese goods are not attractive and diversified enough for visitors. "The problem originates from the production stage. We are trying to deal with it, but it needs more time."

Nguyen Cong Hoan, vice director of the travel agent Hanoi Redtour, said: "We should attract visitors not only with low-priced tours, but take measures to encourage them to spend as much money as possible in our country," he said. He noted that Vietnamese tourists spend just $250-300 to buy a tour to Thailand, but splurge an additional $500-700 on buying products and services in the neighboring country.

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