According to the Chinese Outbound Tourism Research Institute, in 2008, Chinese people made 46 million trips abroad, 90 percent of which were trips to Asia. China has become the biggest source of tourists in Asia, which explains why popular tourist destinations in Asia have launched numerous campaigns to attract tourists from China.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), the number of Chinese tourists, after reaching a record high of 778,000 people in 2004, has decreased steadily over the last few years. In 2009, for example, only 528,000 Chinese people traveled to Vietnam, a decrease of 18 percent over 2008.
However, the situation has improved in the first six months of this year, with the number of tourists from China increasing sharply by 92.5 percent (437,000 tourists).
Chinese tourists not only go through Vietnam’s northern border, but the number of travelers to the south has also increased. According to La Quoc Khanh, Deputy Director of the HCM City Department for Culture, Sports and Tourism, the growth rate of tourists from China is about 25 percent per year.
Vietnam Travel firms have also reported satisfactory growth in the number of Chinese travelers to Vietnam. Lien Bang Travelink, for example, said the number of tourists has increased by 30 percent since the beginning of the year. Instead of only spending 3-4 days in Vietnam and primarily staying in northern provinces, Chinese travelers now spend more time in Vietnam and travel to the central and southern regions as well.
Tu Quy Thanh, Director of Lien Bang Travelink, said there is a wide range of tourists to serve, from economy-class tourists to more free-spending, high-end tourists. Many Chinese tourists now spend more money than their Western counterparts.
As for Lac Hong Voyages, the number of tourists has reportedly increased by 18-19 percent over the last two years. “We are targeting tourists who spend freely and go to Vietnam with passports. I think that this market has great potential,” said Lac Hong Director Tran Vinh Loc.
VNAT General Director Nguyen Van Tuan said China remains the key market for Vietnam’s tourism industry in 2010. He believes that the market will see a strong recovery, allowing Vietnam to receive one million travelers this year, or double the number from last year.
Strong advertising brings travelers in
Explaining the high growth rate of Chinese tourists travel to Vietnam, Tuan said that good advertisements have brought tourists to Vietnam. Many of the advertising campaigns have been carried out in big cities in China, while travel firms and the tourism administration agencies of China and Vietnam have signed cooperation agreements. VNAT said it is planning to broadcast a commercial to promote Vietnam as a beautiful travel destination on some Chinese TV channels.
Thanh from Lien Bang Travellink recognized the prompt effect of advertising. He said that after Vietnam began advertising, Lien Bang Travelink noticed that more Chinese tourists began coming to Vietnam through the border gates in the north as well as taking more domestic flights to different places in Vietnam.
Good service from air carriers has also helped increase the number of Chinese tourists travel to Vietnam. Vietnam Airlines is providing 30 flights a week on routes to Beijing, Guangzhou, Kunming, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.
What can be done to attract more tourists?
Some people may think that it is easy to lure Chinese tourists thanks to the similarities in culture, close proximity, and convenient transportation options. However, experts say it will be difficult to obtain sustainable growth in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Vietnam.
The language barrier is one of the biggest problems now. Vietnam Travel firms now find it hard to find tour guides who can speak Chinese. Travel firms have also experienced difficulties in finding people who can work and negotiate directly with Chinese partners in Chinese.
“Chinese businessmen usually use Chinese when discussing business,” Thanh explained.
Then what advantages does Vietnam have to attract Chinese tourists? Vietnam cannot compare with Bangkok or Singapore in providing large shopping malls or high-end medical services. It does not provide as many cultural attractions as Indonesia, and Vietnam cannot compete with Japan when it comes to luxury products.
However, according to Thanh, Vietnam still has its own advantages. Chinese people like to travel to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city (HCM City), two dynamic cities with unique cultures and histories.
In the north, Hanoi and Halong Bay are usually the Vietnam destinations tourists choose, while in the south, HCM City and its neighboring cities are the top choices.
Source: Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon