Work to do for Vietnam to mirror Thailand’s tourism successes

Thailand is taking bold steps to boost the tourism economy through a plan to further exempt visas for some European countries as well as implement new stimulus measures, according to the Thai government last month.

Work to do for Vietnam to mirror Thailand’s tourism successes
Work to do for Vietnam to mirror Thailand’s tourism successes

The number of foreign visitors to Thailand since the beginning of the year exceeded 23.4 million people, the biggest figure across Southeast Asia. For 2024, Thailand is targeting 35 million international visitors and $56 billion in tourism revenue, recovering about 90 per cent compared to before the pandemic. The new tourism policy is hoped to help attract the attention of tourists from the UK, Germany, and Scandinavian countries in particular. Tourists will be allowed to stay for up to 90 days, three times longer than at present.

Previously, Thailand temporarily waived visas for visitors from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, India, and Taiwan for five months and required airlines to add more routes and reduce waiting time at the airport during the year-end peak travel season.

The Thai government has also licensed nearly 3,000 concerts, marathons, and other cultural festivals in 2024 to attract and encourage tourists to stay longer and spend more.

Meanwhile, night entertainment venues, clubs, and karaoke bars in popular tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Chonburi will be allowed to stay open two extra hours until 4am, starting from December.

Pamela Bui, representative of a Vietnamese travel business specialising in serving European tourist groups, expressed worry that these new tourism policies will prevent people from choosing Vietnam for a visit.

“Easier entry conditions, a developed night economy, and many interesting things to discover are reasons why tourists may decide to stay in Thailand for a long time, instead of moving on to Vietnam for a while,” Bui said.

In 2023, Thailand adjusted its target for welcoming international visitors three times, from 18 million to an eventual expectation of 30 million. Vietnam also adjusted its goal of welcoming international visitors three times, from 8 million to 12 million by the end of this year.

Tourism consultant Nguyen Van Bich said that Thailand is doing very well and there are many lessons that Vietnam can apply and implement.

“The Thai government has developed a synchronous tourism development policy and implemented it very thoroughly,” Bich said. “They conducted research to survey each market and came up with different products and communication campaigns for each. A tourism steering committee was also established, with the power to request cooperation from other ministries and branches.”

Bich added that Vietnamese tourism is not only inferior to Thailand in terms of products and marketing strategies, but is also far behind in terms of service quality and price.

“Tour prices in Vietnam are being offered 10-15 per cent higher than in other countries. The number of direct flights to Vietnam is fewer than Thailand, while domestic airfare prices are too high. Products are not always clear, and communication methods are not in accordance with the taste of each international market,” Bich said.

Vu Quoc Tri, general secretary of the Vietnam Tourism Association, stressed that Vietnam has many charms that should be promoted more thoroughly. “Every country has its own uniqueness in culture, history, and people,” Tri said. He suggested, “Vietnam has Halong Bay, recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site, and many cultural festivals that Thailand cannot offer.”

Furthermore, Vietnam is a hugely popular destination for South Korean travellers. There were 2.58 million Korean arrivals to Vietnam from January to September 2023, according to the Vietnam National Authority of Tourism.

“Vietnam is one of the most popular destinations for South Koreans, especially during the winter season,” said Kyeyong Kim, Vietnam country manager at Korean Air. “We are happy to assist Vietnam in developing its tourism potential by providing convenient air services to international passengers seeking to visit this special destination.”

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