The master plan to develop the Vietnam travel sector has been implemented in the context of the country opening its doors and integrating into the international market. The state and government considers tourism as a spearhead sector. With its great effort, the tourism sector has developed considerably. In 1995, the number of tourists to Vietnam recorded 1.35 million. That figure went up to 5.3 million in 2010. The average growth of foreign tourists during 2005-2010 was 9.2 percent annually.
The development of tourism has made a positive contribution to the country's socioeconomic development. In 2010, tourism revenue made up six percent of Vietnam's gross domestic product (GDP). Foreign currency revenue from the tourism sector reached US$1.5 billion per year attracting approximately 625 investment projects with total registered capital of almost US$12.26 billion. Noticeably, tourism has created numerous jobs. In 2010 alone, 450,000 direct workers and nearly one million indirect workers were recruited in the sector, contributing to hunger elimination and poverty reduction.
Associate Professor Dr. Pham Trung Luong, the vice director of ITDS, said that achievements in the tourism sector are noteworthy. However, the sector's contribution to total national GDP in the period of 1995-2010 was limited, did not equal its strategic targets and did not follow the master plan as a spearhead sector.
One of weaknesses that Dr. Luong and other experts pointed out at the conference was the ineffective coordination among sectors and departments in implementing the targets and missions in the master plan to develop the tourism sector in 2005-2010. Vietnam lacked special products featuring the culture, while the quality of tourism products was low, the prices were uncompetitive, many tourist centers/sites were built spontaneously and Vietnam did not fully develop its national brand name. The connection between localities to develop tourism was still weak, and the role of tourism centers in the development of tourism in regions, sub-regions and localities were not brought into full play. The connection of tourism activities with the preservation of natural, historical and cultural value was limited. Environment protection also saw limited attention. The community participation in tourism was limited, thereby affecting sustainable tourism development.
According to the draft strategy to develop tourism, Vietnam will welcome 12 million foreign tourists and 28 million local tourists in 2015. Tourism revenue will reach US$8.9 billion in 2015 and US$15.9 billion in 2020, bringing tourism a spearhead sector.
In the opinion of Dr. Luong, it is necessary to learn experiences so as to develop the sector in the next period from 2011-2020 with a vision to 2030. Following this, the master plan to develop the tourism sector in 2011-2020 should be designed and implemented on the foundation of stronger policies and decisions on management, organization, investment, human resource training and tourism promotion. Social awareness about tourism's role in economic development should be enhanced as a whole and the managers/leaders awareness in particular. The development of special tourism products featuring Vietnamese culture should go along with building a tourism brand. Human resources in the tourism sector should be considered a highly important factor for attracting FDI and enhancing the competitiveness of Vietnam travel sector.