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Vietnam, attractive destination of Europeans but lacks promotion

Tourists from Germany visiting Bac Can province’s rural areas.

Europe, particularly Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain, is viewed as a potential market of the Vietnamese tourism. The number of tourists to Vietnam from these markets is rising but the image of Vietnam should be much further promoted.

Rising numbers

The number of German, UK and Spanish arrivals to Vietnam is increasing quickly, particularly tourists from Spain. Vietnam is considered a new attractive destination for Europeans.

About 55% of tourists who travel abroad annually are from Europe, of which the United Kingdom and Germany belong to the Top Three Countries with the most residents travelling abroad.

European tourists accounted for about 10% of the total 3.4 million international tourists to Vietnam in 2005, of which the three countries accounted for nearly a half.

In Germany alone, over 60 tour operators feature Vietnam, and the arrival figures speak for themselves: 21,719 Germans visited Vietnam in 1999, whereas in 2005 that number had already tripled with 64,488 arrivals.

The United Kingdoms was the second strongest outbound market in Europe for Vietnam with a total of 71,000 arrivals in 2004 and 81,000 in 2005, a year on year rise of 14%. The number of UK travellers to Vietnam increased by an average by 6% a year between 2000 and 2004; thus the market share appears likely to rise.

The recent evolution of Spanish tourism to Vietnam has been quite impressive, even though absolute numbers still remain low in comparison with other European nationalities. More than 18,600 Spanish people visited Vietnam in 2005 compared with over 5,500 arrivals in 2000.

Image of Vietnam

Although the number of tourists from the three countries to Vietnam has risen year after year, the image of Vietnam in these markets has not been well promoted. UK, German and Spanish newspapers do not feature Vietnam very often in their travel sections.

Vietnam does not enjoy a strong image as a potential holiday destination among UK people. The first images coming to their mind tend to be ones associated with the Vietnam War, said Oliver Bennett, tourism consultant from the UK.

Few UK travellers know what Vietnam has to offer. Moreover, Vietnam is not featured very often in UK newspapers. A detailed search of the UK national press revealed an average for each newspaper four articles giving travel information about Vietnam in 2005, he added.

Vietnam is not yet a well-known destination for Spanish tourists. Even today, the country is mostly associated with the memories of the American War, especially among the baby boomers born between 1940 and 1960, said Mr Julia Aramberri, tourism professor from Spain.

He said that few people are aware of the changes Vietnam has undergone since the early 1980s. Among those who know better, three main groups of travellers can be named. The first and perhaps biggest is that of the baby boomers trying to rejuvenate by visiting the country of their youthful sympathies. The second includes special interest travellers who look for specific products (scuba diving, biking, trekking). Backpackers in search of pristine environments and peaceful surroundings (Sa Pa, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang) are the third. “However, all of those groups are really small in numbers,” said Mr Aramberri.

Many Germans know Vietnam through the images of the Vietnam War, President Ho Chi Minh (who was very much admired by what in Germany was called the “68 Generation”, Saigon, and books and stories by Graham Greene and Marguerite Duras, said Ulrike Beinlich, German marketing and public relations consultant.

She said many German individuals who have not yet travelled to Vietnam imagine it to be something like Thailand in the past: unspoilt beaches, a great natural environment, a country without mass tourism.

Lack of marketing

To raise efficiency of attracting tourists from Europe, Vietnamese travel companies should raise its professionalism in its activities and organisation and have a long-term consultancy and marketing, said Jozef W.M Van Doorn, co-director of the Vietnam human resources development in tourism project.

“It is ‘like a fish out of water’ for many travel firms of Vietnam to have access to information of the European market. They lack a professional contingent of marketing executives and have not yet established solid partnership with big travel companies in Europe,” said Nguyen Anh Tuan from the Travel Department of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

Spanish media, whether newspapers or magazines, printed or audiovisual, general or specializing in travel, devote very little attention to Vietnam. “The travel sections of the main dailies (El Pais, El Mundo, ABC, La Van-guardia) and travel magazines only devoted a trickle of notices and articles to Vietnam in 2005 and 2006,” said Mr Aramberri.

He said that this lack of attention on the Spanish side is matched by its Vietnamese counterpart. Promotional materials produced by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism still rely mainly on printed media that are often obsolete.

“Fortunately, the country itself seems attractive enough to have increased its market volume in Spain six times since 1999, but absolute numbers of Spanish arrivals in Vietnam are still far below their potential,” he added.

“Better press coverage and proactive tourism information campaign in the UK market should change the image perceived by UK people leading to a further increase in the number of UK number of tourist arrivals in Vietnam,” suggested Bennett.

By HUY CUONG

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