Lorijon Bacchi, country manager of Visa in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, said: “tripadviser.com-- a prestigious travel guide website in the world, recommends its readers that the best way of travel in Vietnam is hiring a bike and drive it from the North to the South. It is a very strange advice!”
“Coming to Vietnam, I know local tour guides’ joke ‘going to museums in the morning and to the water puppetry theatre on the evening. And I understand the above advice. Vietnam has many fascinating things to discover. But it’s the best that you discover them yourself.”
In 2011, Visa implemented its sixth global travel trend and this was the third time Vietnam was in the survey.
According to the survey, with its distinctive culture, beautiful natural landscapes and affordability, Vietnam emerged as one of the top destinations for travellers from Singapore, Thailand, Australia and South Korea.
Forecasts on the nation's tourism sector for the year ahead predict that 24 percent travellers to Vietnam tour will be from Singapore and Thailand (12 percent from each country), followed by Australian visitors accounting for 10 percent. The survey also highlighted a growing number of tourists from South Korea.
Natural scenery, good deals and promotions as well as political stability were cited as the key factors for visiting Vietnam over the next two years. While in Vietnam, future inbound travellers surveyed on their travel plans said they planned to enjoy outdoor activities, take food tours to explore the local cuisine and experience the local night life.
Lorijon Bacchi said that with tourism emerging as one of Vietnam's key economic drivers, the survey results came at an idea time to show where visitors to Vietnam would be coming from and what would motivate them in choosing destinations.
"Using data from the Visa Global Travel Intentions Survey 2011, the Vietnamese tourism industry can now identify opportunities to attract more tourists based specifically on inbound traveller preferences," said Bacchi.
The Visa survey quizzed over 11,000 travellers across 23 countries about their travel plans and preferences over the coming years. Interestingly, a large number of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay a premium for food (64 percent), want to visit exotic destinations (65 percent) and experience the local culture (63 percent). Similarly, variety of food and dining options and lower travelling costs were also cited as key reasons for future inbound travel decisions.
Bacchi said most inbound travellers to Vietnam had already travelled to popular Asian destination Hong Kong. Many had also already visited nearby Asian destinations such as mainland China and Malaysia.
Vietnam was likely to have mostly new visitors, who had not visited the country before. While variety of food offered was the key reason for past inbound travellers, future inbound travellers would revisit a place for its low travelling costs. Beautiful natural scenery attracted both past and future inbound travellers.
Analyzing the survey, experts have noted that Vietnam’s tourism advertising is ineffective.
Of the total 11,620 travellers who participated in the survey, only 271 visited Vietnam in the last two years and 338 planed to visit the country in the next two years. Singapore, Thailand, Australia and South Korea are the countries that have the highest number of tourists who are interested in Vietnam. It means that Vietnam’s tourism advertising to countries out of the region was limited.
In Visa’s survey, there is an unexpected aspect: foreign tourists thought that political instability and the risk of terrorism in Vietnam is higher than the world average.
Nguyen Quy Phuong, chief of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism’s Travel Department, said: “This is a misunderstanding that is firstly caused by ourselves because we did not well perform advertising activities. When Cambodia had certain instability, some visitors thought that Vietnam was also unsafe and did choose Vietnam as their destination. Though these people account for a small portion but we need to immediately deal with it through providing tourists with accurate information”.
At the workshop where Visa made public its survey, Bacchi told her story, as a simple tourist: “The first time I was in Hanoi, I hired a tour guide. Frankly, I was bored after a day. I told the guide that I had only three days in Hanoi and I wanted to have comfortable and enjoyable days. But it sounded that he could only introduced a model Hanoi to me while I felt a very interesting Hanoi somewhere that I could not touch. The young, well English speaking guy did not know how to explain to me. So I did not hire him anymore and I opened my guide book and wondered in Hanoi alone.”
“In my later trips to Hanoi, I was always eager because I always had a plan to taste cuisines and to shop somewhere. And I discovered all of them by myself.”
Bacchi’s story is not an exception. She still returns to Vietnam but how many foreign tourists have not come back to Vietnam?