Vetnam has been trying to advertise the tourism products that travelers do not need. Though Vietnam does not have to spend much money promoting tourism, it has been using money ineffectively, according to Associate Professor Dr Pham Trung Luong, Deputy Head of the Tourism Research and Development Institute.
 In a talk with VietNamNet, Luong said that the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT) is compiling a tourism development strategy for 2020 until 2030. The strategy has six components, including tourism promotion. Especially, Vietnam will focus on building its national brand.
To date, Vietnam has just been trying to advertise the products it has, while it has not paid attention to developing the products travelers need. Vietnam will not follow the same trails and repeat the current mistakes in the future.
There is another thing in the new tourism development strategy is that Vietnam will target closer markets by 2020 instead of markets further away from Vietnam. Travelers always consider travel time needed. Therefore, Vietnam would focus on attracting travelers from near markets, including Northeast Asia and some priority markets. Besides, Vietnam would also try to target European and the US markets.
You have said that Vietnam will focus on building a national brand. What will be Vietnam’s national brand, then?
Since Vietnam’s tourism development strategy aims to developing sea tourism in the time to come, therefore, the national brand will be closely related to that strategy. Sea tourism is really an advantage of Vietnam, because seas are the places which feature most attractive natural resources of the country. Vietnam now has 10 world heritage sites, while 2/3 of which are located on coastal areas, from Ha Long Bay to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Hue ancient capital, Hoi An ancient town. Vietnam’s beaches can compete with any beaches in the world and the region, but the problem is that they have not been well exploited.
Sports tourism will also be a priority. The sailboat festival in Binh Thuan province to be held in mid March will be the first activity to awaken the great potentials of sports tourism in Vietnam.
But in the region, Thailand has also been promoting sea tourism?
Vietnam is in no way inferior to Thailand in terms of the beauty of beaches. Thai sea tourism has reached its highest peak in development and it is entering a period of saturation. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s sea tourism is still developing.
In tourism, new things always attract travelers, new beaches, new friendly people and new landscapes. Meanwhile, Thailand has been rapidly developing over the last 20 years. The beaches like Phuket has become familiar to travelers. Thailand is trying to renew its tourism products. As Vietnam is still in the early stages of development, it has great advantages to develop.
A British travel firm director who has been working in Vietnam for 7-8 years said only five percent of foreign tourists return to Vietnam, while 50 percent of tourists return to Thailand. The problem is that Vietnam has been advertising itself as a country rich in culture. Meanwhile, travelers only need to come one time to learn about culture. Meanwhile, Thailand has been known as a place to entertain and relax. Therefore, travelers want to come to the country at any times they need somewhere to relax. What would you say about that?
He is right. Vietnam has not built up the tourism products attractive enough to persuade travelers to return. Travelers only return if they find tourism products attractive, such as entertainment services. As for resorts, if travelers think the resorts have good healthcare services they will return. But travelers will come only time if they only want to do sightseeing. There are many historical and cultural sites in Vietnam, and travelers only intend to come to see them one time in their lives. There are also many festivals, but travelers will only attend the festivals one time.
You have said that in the past, Vietnam only tried to advertise the things it has, not the things travelers need. Could you please collaborate on this?
In the past, we did not conduct surveys professionally, so we did not realize what the market needed. Therefore, we tried to advertise the products that travelers found uninteresting. Meanwhile, there are many market segments and a wide range of clients: the US travelers do not have the same tastes as South Koreans, while the tastes of elderly people and young people, high income earners and low income earners are not the same.
Most of South Korean travelers are young who like going to noisy places where they can go shopping, while they are not as interested in culture. Meanwhile, most of Japanese travelers are elderly people who have high income. They like quiet places and like going to see cultural sites. Australian travelers like the beach, sports, while they are not as attracted to the cultural sites.
As such, we need to conduct thorough surveys on the targeted markets so as to make reasonable advertisement campaigns.
In a recent survey, a question was posed for travelers: “Through which channels did you know about Vietnam?” 65 percent of polled travelers said they knew about Vietnam through friends and relatives, 33 percent said through mass media, while only 13 percent through the channels on which Vietnam had to spend a lot of money to develop. Vietnam is a poor country, but it sometimes does not effectively use the money it has.
Vietnam Tourism / Lan Huong