Vietnam needs more preparation to tap Indian market: tourism officials

India is now one of the 16 top tourism markets and one of the fastest recovering, Pham Van Thuy, deputy director-general of the Vietnam National Tourism Administration, said at a meeting last week.

In July alone, there were 11,700 Indian visitors, close to the market’s average monthly tourist numbers during the pre-pandemic period.

In 2019, an average of 14,000 Indian tourists visited Vietnam per month.

Since March, Vietnam has allowed quarantine-free entry and resumed its pre-pandemic visa policies under which Indians can apply for e-visas to enter Vietnam.

Vietnamese authorities are now issuing 6,000,000 visas a day to Indians, a 24-fold increase from pre-Covid times, said Pham San Chau, the country’s ambassador in New Delhi.

Mini D Kumam, First Secretary of the Indian Embassy in Hanoi, said: “Some of my friends are planning to film TV series and documentaries in Ha Long Bay or Da Nang city, Vietnam has become one of the most popular tourist destinations for Indians.”

Rajeev Kale, representative of India’s travel agency Thomas Cook, said that after the Vietnam epidemic, alternative tourists are becoming the choice of Indian people.

“Two years after the pandemic crisis, Indian tourists are willing to switch to convenient and affordable short-haul destinations instead of opting for long-term tours or traditional destinations as before,” said Kale.

Many travel firms and airlines are making moves to better tap the Indian market of 1.4 billion people.

Budget airline Vietjet Air has announced the opening of nine new routes to three cities in India from Hanoi, HCMC and Da Nang, bringing the number of airlines serving India directly to 17.

Nguyen Thi Le Thanh, director of the Khanh Hoa Tourism Department, said last week 32 Indian companies visited the central province to explore tourism promotion opportunities.

However, Thanh said that for the tourism industry to tap the Indian market effectively, they need more time and better preparation.

Phan Dinh Thao, director general of tour operator HTS International, which caters to inbound tourists, said India was Vietnam’s potential tourism market in the context of China, Vietnam’s largest source of visitors before Covid, which still maintains strict travel restrictions.

Thao said Indian tourists often have special needs when it comes to food. For example, Hindus avoid eating pork and beef; Therefore, they need a restaurant that specializes in serving Indian food but not all areas in Vietnam can do this.

“Restaurants and hotels in Vietnam need more time to prepare to meet the food demand of Indian tourists,” Thao said.

Some travel firms also said the tourism industry needs to provide training courses for tour guides so that they can better understand Indian culture, faith, food and other aspects.

Currently, there are no experienced or specialized tour guides to serve Indian tourists, several tourism agencies said.

Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Pranay Verma said that in 2019, about 200,000 Indian tourists came to Vietnam.

“This is a modest number that is yet to show the full tourism potential of the two countries. If there is an agreement or special tourism cooperation arrangement, the number of Indian tourists in Vietnam will increase in the near future,” he said.

In the first seven months of this year, Vietnam received 733,000 foreign arrivals, just 15 percent of this year’s target.

Earlier this month, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Nguyen Van Hung proposed extending visa exemptions to tourists from the US, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India to boost tourism recovery.

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