Since opening its economy to international trade in the 1990’s, Vietnam’s travel and tourism sector has experienced unprecedented growth. As both a source and a destination market, the industry has grown nearly twice as fast as GDP in recent years. In fact, in the latest annual survey by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Vietnam was named the world's fourth fastest-growing tourist destination. In 2007, the country had about 4.2 million foreign visitors, 16% more than in 2006. Total outbound travel from Vietnam also achieved an all-time record high in 2007, and forecasts call for additional growth of 5-9 percent for each of the next three years. The focus of this industry overview is on Vietnam as a travel origination market.
Although technically still a developing country, Vietnam is expected to reach middle-income economy status, as measured by 2010. For many Vietnamese, overseas travel is a vital part of doing business in this trade-oriented economy and is also a much loved form of leisure and recreation. With a population of 86 million, Vietnam is clearly an emerging outbound tourism market to watch. International departures in 2007 grew by 20 percent, reaching 1.7 million travelers, and industry insiders note that package tours and corporate group incentive tours exceeded expectations last year. Growth is particularly strong in high-end luxury tour packages, youth and student travel, and customized tours. To meet this demand, Vietnam’s highly competitive travel industry is actively seeking new products and destinations to provide the greatest number of travel options and tour combinations to the increasingly more refined Vietnamese traveler.
Since the Vietnamese now travel more frequently, they are becoming more experienced and sophisticated, as are their demands for services. This is particularly evident in the more highly educated rising generation, which is growing up with the expectation and experience of traveling abroad. With the typical Vietnamese traveler now more independent and adventurous, demand for custom-fit specialized tours is also growing organically, as is the traditional all-inclusive guided group package market. In general, the Vietnamese are fairly knowledgeable about the United States, and popular all-inclusive two-week tours include visits to California, Nevada, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York.
Further, Vietnam is experiencing steady growth in the business travel market. The overwhelming trend among business people is to extend their itineraries for touring and site-seeing, thereby blurring the line between business and leisure.
By Tran Lan