More than 70 per cent of tourist sites in Vietnam lay in coastal provinces – and 70 per cent of tourists choose beach tours.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), coastal tourism has yet to tap its great potential – 3,200km of coastline containing many of the world's finest beaches.
"Getting 10 customers who are willing to pay for luxury tours will bring us an income higher than 100 customers who pay for regular tours," said Nguyen Manh Cuong, VNAT's deputy head.
Nguyen Thanh Huong, deputy head of VNAT's Marketing Department, said the number of tourists targeted would be the same, but the percentage of high spenders would boost income from quality tourism services and products.
Cuong said low-quality tours were not economically efficient and quickly exploited natural resources. He believed there was regional interest in high quality tours and among travellers from Europe, North America, Australia, Russia and former Soviet Union nations.
He said the Viet kieu (Overseas Vietnamese) scattered throughout the world were an exciting possibility.
He said more research would be done on customers from India, Latin America, South Africa and the Middle East.
Among the new areas to be looked at are water-adventure sports and medical, convalescence and ecological packages.
Cuong said the aim was to build high-standard beach villages with fine villas, hotels and resorts to attract wealthy customers travel to Vietnam.
According to the deputy head of the Vietnam Institute for Tourism Development Research, Pham Trung Luong, brand building would be highlighted as it was given little attention in the past.
"We will focus on products that are distinct from other countries in the region," he added.
The first step in brand building will be to create a logo and slogan for coastal and beach tourism.
To allay fears about the adverse impacts of tourism on coastal ecology, plans will be well designed.
Cuong said it was a sad fact that many beautiful beaches had been chopped up by construction companies approved by local authorities or turned into private property.
Under the 10-year development proposal, the sector will co-ordinate with local authorities. "This time, we will do a more professional job and focus more on benefits for local people," he said.
Essential coastal areas likely to receive the treatment will be Ha Long-Cat Ba in the north, Phong Nha-Ke Bang in central Quang Binh Province, southern-central Nha Trang, Binh Thuan and Phu Yen provinces – and the pristine Phu Quoc Island in southern Kien Giang Province.
Tourist authorities also said that sewage and waste water polluted the sea in coastal provinces. Last month, Nha Trang and Mui Ne were listed as two problem beaches by America's National Geographic Traveller magazine.
The magazine said waste treatment system in Nha Trang was seriously downgraded. "At many places in Nha Trang, Mui Ne and even Da Nang, tourism businesses have their waste going directly to the sea," Luong said.
In 2007, a regulation was introduced to protect the sea environment – with accompanying fines. But nothing has been done.
"The problem lies with people who execute the law and a lack of detailed plan to punish violators," Luong said.