Vietnam has already reached its target of eight million foreign tourists for the whole year and now expects to receive 13 million visitors this year.
But among its five largest tourism origin markets, the United States has a recovery rate of only 96.4%, while it is even lower in South Korea (82.3%), Taiwan ( 85.3%), Japan (60%) and China (28%), according to data from the Vietnam National Tourism Administration.
The number of visitors from the 13 countries for which Vietnam exempts visas has also not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Tourism insiders said there were several factors for this.
Martin Koerner, head of Vietnam Business Forum’s tourism working group, said VnExpress International that airfares from destinations such as Europe and the United States are double their pre-pandemic levels, deterring American and European tourists.
“In addition, we are seeing a global economic slowdown. This means that people, especially those in the middle class, who previously traveled abroad, can now only travel domestically or regionally.”
The number of flights to Vietnam from key markets remains well below 2019 levels, he said.
Last month, China Southern Airlines became the first Chinese airline to resume Covid-suspended flights to Cam Ranh/Nha Trang, a key market for Chinese tourists, Koerner said to highlight the slow recovery of air routes between the two countries.
“If we compare this with 2019, when dozens of scheduled and charter flights arrived daily, we can easily understand why the number of inbound tourists has not yet fully recovered.
“It will take a lot longer for the aviation industry to readjust all of its flight routes and I don’t see that happening before 2025.”
A survey released on September 18 by the Big Data Research Institute and Beijing-based online travel agency Qunar showed that Vietnam is no longer the first choice for Chinese tourists.
Limited travel experiences and a shortage of luxury services have caused Chinese tourists to reject Vietnam, said Dao Viet Long, CEO of Hanoi-based travel company Fantasea.
In this case, Southeast Asian countries support the inbound tourism market.
Cambodia is now Vietnam’s fastest-growing tourism market, with visitor numbers in the first nine months of this year 267% higher than the same period at pre-pandemic levels, followed by Singapore ( 106%) and Thailand (101%).
The 30-day visa-free stay that ASEAN member countries allow their respective nationals means that Vietnam is popular among Southeast Asian tourists.
The recent launch of new direct flights to Vietnamese cities from Southeast Asian tourist hubs has contributed to the rapid recovery, insiders said.
But they warned that Vietnam’s neighbors are heating up in the race for international tourism.
As of September 25, Thailand has waived visas for Chinese and Kazakh tourists, while Indonesia recently unveiled its golden visa policy that allows foreigners to stay for up to 10 years.
Myanmar plans to offer visas on arrival to Chinese tourists.
“Vietnam should increase efforts in its overseas marketing activities by opening representative offices in key markets we target,” Koerner said.
“Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are doing it and if we want to compete with these countries for the same type of travelers, we need to improve our promotions and marketing.”