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The tourism boom in Vietnam

For a long time, Vietnam was thought of as a country at war, closed off to the outside world, but it welcomed its first tourists in the 1990s. More recently the country was still considered to be a ‘backpacker’ tourist destination (because of the lack of hotel infrastructure), or reserved for organised tours.

However, over the last few years, the tourism sector has seen unprecedented growth! Evidence of this was the 2005 launch of the International Travel Expo Ho Chi Minh City, the 7th edition of which is taking place from the 14 – 17 September. In addition to this, governmental reforms, particularly those undertaken since Vietnam joined the WTO (World Trade Organisation) in January 2007, are currently changing the situation.

Impressive growth in the sector

460,000 international tourists visited Vietnam in July 2011 and in the first 7 months of 2011 there were 3.4 million visitors – this represents an increase of 17.3% compared to the same period in 2010.

Of course, Vietnam has not yet achieved the same numbers as other South East Asian countries, such as Malaysia or Thailand, who attracted 24.6 million and 15 million visitors in 2010 respectively. However, tourism has been developing in those countries since the 1970s and they have also had time to organise themselves and in particular to build up their infrastructure. In Vietnam the sector is still young and the massive progress is impressive: a 286% increase between 1998 and 2008!

Great potential and grand ambitions

Vietnam has a large variety of destinations which make it a very attractive country:

– Natural sites: Sapa, Mekong Delta, Halong Bay

– Historical sites: Hue, Hanoi, Hoi An

– Seaside destinations: Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Phu Quoc, etc.

Halong Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site

Even the stars have seen its potential, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (who didn’t just come for tourism), spotted on the streets of Saigon at the end of 2006.

(source: http://www.larmesblanches.info/spip.php?article218&artsuite=1)

This potential leads to grand ambitions for the future of tourism in Vietnam. The target of 6 million foreign visitors in 2010 wasn’t reached (‘only’ 5 million), but even so there has been an increase of 34.8% compared to 2009. Vietnam wants to be one of the top 10 tourist destinations by 2016! The booming tourism industry will continue to generate jobs and increase incomes, as well as speeding up the economic transition towards service industries, and stimulating growth.

Another interesting consequence is that rises in incomes and standards of living, combined with the arrival of low-cost companies and the growing optimism of the Vietnamese have enabled external tourism, i.e. Vietnamese people and people living in Vietnam are now leaving the country.

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