The 2011 National Tourism Year themed "Sea and Island Tourism" has created a good opportunity for the tourism sector to promote its image and attract domestic and foreign tourists to exploit Vietnamese pristine and mysterious sea and islands. According to the General Statistics Office, in the first seven months of this year, more than 3.42 million international travelers to Vietnam tour, marking an increase of 17.3 percent from last year. Among those, two million tourists came to Vietnam with the purpose of relaxing and discovering, an increase of 11.3 percent from last year with nearly 586,000 people coming to visit relatives, 68.7 percent more than last year. Many large vessels such as Costa Classica, Princess Daphne, Pacific Venus, Voyages of Discovery and SuperStar Virgo (a five star vessel) have transported a large number of tourists to Vietnam. In terms of the domestic tourist market, marine tourism has still been the first choice with Da Nang, Nha Trang, Phu Yen, Quang Binh, Phu Quoc, Con Dao and Phan Thiet being attractive destinations.
It is obvious that the marine tourism sector has lured the largest number of tourists and brought the highest revenue for Vietnam tourism sector. The marine tourism sector accounts for 70 percent of the tourism sectors' activities and is considered one of five important economic strategies on marine economic development.
Vietnamese marine tourism has been advertised in many countries. A large number of large events such as Vietnamese Tourism Festival in France held in April 2009 and tourism exhibitions and fairs in the UK and Germany have been organized. Particularly, in May 2011, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) had an advertising program about Vietnamese marine tourism in the period of the most audiences.
The project on developing marine tourism until 2020 has been submitted for the Prime Minister. When the project is implemented, it will create a chain of marine tourism products such as relaxing combined with taking entertainment and sport activities. Vietnam is striving to be listed on the countries which have a developed tourism sector like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. At least five coastal tourist sites which have strong competitiveness will be constructed including Halong - Cat Ba, Lang Co - Son Tra - Hoi An, Nha Trang - Cam Ranh, Phan Thiet - Mui Ne and Phu Quoc.
However, there is a difficult confronting the marine tourism sector that is the conflict between the requirements of modern, convenient and professional tourism products and poor and out-moded infrastructure system and unskillful human resources. The sector is facing with increasingly fierce competition from other tourist sites in the region and the world. Sea level rising and negative impacts of climate changes will be large challenges to the coastal areas which have weak adaptability. Therefore, it is necessary for the marine tourism sector to effectively exploit its potential to develop with sustainability. To strengthen competitiveness and enhance attractiveness, there is a need to combine management methods with tourism promotion programs of related departments and businesses.
In addition, Vietnam should combine exploiting and maintaining tourist sites which have international value such as Halong Bay and Nha Trang Bay. Those tourist sites should be considered as comparative advantages of Vietnamese marine tourism sector. There is a need to strictly control exploiting marine natural resources such as salt marshes, construction materials (sand and rock mountains) underground water and seafood to avoid bad impacts on the marine environment.
Because of the marine environment's sensitiveness, to protect the environment and increase people's livelihood, it is necessary for related departments to make careful plan on tourism development and pay special attention to impacts of tourism activities. Therefore, helping people in coastal areas to gradually change from seafood catching to taking part in tourism services is a good way to protect natural resources towar sustainable development.