Vietnam wants more domestic tourism from India

Singapore: Last week, at the India-Vietnam Tourism Promotion Conference held on August 17 in Ho Chi Minh City, government officials and industry representatives from both countries met to discuss how inbound tourism from India can be promoted.

The meeting organized by the Consulate General of India in Ho Chi Minh City was attended by Vice President of Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT) Pham Van Thuy and Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Pranay Verma. Acknowledging that business relations between travel firms of both countries are important to grow Vietnam’s travel market, 34 travel companies from both countries held discussions and exchanged tourism information to increase Indian travel demand to Vietnam.

Apart from leisure travelers, Vietnam is also keen to promote itself as a MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) destination and foreign wedding venue.

In July, a group of 460 business leaders spent three days in Hai Chi Minh City on a trip organized by B2B travel company Asia Destination Management (Asia DMC).

Vietnam has been actively encouraging Indians to visit its country through other activities including bilateral conferences and sponsored trips for business. VNAT hopes that these activities will enable its travel industry to tap into a market of 1.4 billion people.

According to Tran Phong Binh, deputy director of VNAT’s tourism marketing department, 20 million Indians go abroad for holidays every year. He said, “Vietnam has a series of amazing scenic spots and famous tourist destinations like Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa, Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, etc. Vietnam has full potential to attract Indians. Visitors come, Travel and rest.”

In his speech, he pointed out that the number of Indian visitors to Vietnam is normal and an important way to boost it is better communication between the two countries.

Direct flights between cities are a major factor in boosting travel because travelers typically do not enjoy sitting in a third country’s airport transit area waiting, sometimes for hours, for a connecting flight. A direct flight between an Indian city and Vietnam takes about five to six hours, but connecting via Bangkok or Singapore can double the travel time to 10 or 12 hours.

Currently, budget carriers VietJet Air and IndiGo operate a dozen or so direct flights between cities in the two countries per week. In June, flag carrier Vietnam Airlines launched direct flights between New Delhi and the two major Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – twice a week and thrice a week respectively.

Vietjet Air recently announced that they will fly to New Delhi and Mumbai from the Vietnamese city of Da Nang. Da Nang itself is known for its pristine sandy beaches but also conveniently connects to the ancient city of Hue and the quaint and beautiful old town of Hoi An. Hue is famous for its well-preserved old city with city walls and was the seat and national capital of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors from 1802 to 1945.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a global travel ban, Vietnam welcomed nearly 170,000 Indian visitors in 2019.

This places India at the 16th position in international source markets for Vietnam.

Tourist arrivals to Vietnam reached an all-time high in 2019 when it received 18 million visitors. During that year, China was the largest country from which visitors came, with 5.8 million visitors, accounting for 21 percent of the total. After this, South Korea has 4.3 million, Japan 952 thousand and Taiwan 926 thousand.

The major traditional travel market for Vietnam still applies travel controls due to their strict disease mitigation policies to varying degrees of COVID, therefore, it is no surprise that Vietnam is eager to explore new markets.

In this regard, success is mixed when compared with neighbors.

Since opening quarantine-free in mid-March, Vietnam has attracted 602,000 tourists in the first half of the year. In the same period, there were 2.2 million tourists in Thailand, 2.0 million in Malaysia, 1.5 million in Singapore and 8.14 million in the Philippines.

Vietnam aims to bring in 5 million foreign visitors this year, 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

Apart from lack of flights, another hurdle cited by industry insiders is strict visa policies.

Pham Ha, CEO of luxury cruise operator Lux Group, told Vietnamese online magazine VN Express, “Many foreign tourists canceled their trips to Vietnam because they could not get entry visas. These current visa policies are major obstacles to Vietnam’s tourism recovery.”

Vietnam has resumed its pre-pandemic visa waiver policy with a maximum stay of only 15 days for 13 countries, including Western European markets. For other markets, including India, it will issue only one-month single-entry e-visas instead of three-month visas as before the pandemic. Visas on arrival are also not available to visitors except those traveling on business.

An e-Visa must be applied for online and may take up to seven working days to be approved.

Despite the hurdles, Indians are flocking to this non-traditional destination.

Earlier this month in New Delhi, at the Outbound Tourism Summit organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Vietnam’s ambassador to India, Pham San Chau, told event participants that Vietnam had increased visas issued to Indians. 24 times.

“Before the pandemic, we used to issue 250 visas per day in India. But recently, we have been issuing 6,000 visas a day,” Pham said.

At the same conference, Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa with Thomas Cook (India) said:

“Vietnam is seeing growth (in interest) not only from corporates but also from families, young professionals, millennials and couples. Indians are open to shifting to destinations that offer convenient short-haul access and (easy) on the wallet.”

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