Addressing the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said that Vietnam named among 40 nations with the highest number of tourists is a good signal. The main foundation to develop the national tourism is maintaining the strength of various cultures, assisting localities to build infrastructures and improving the quality of human sources for tourism, Nhan said.
Owning available natural potentials, Vietnam is among top five countries worldwide enjoying the highest tourism growth, with an increase of 36 % in the number of tourists, and tourism revenues of nearly US$4 billion per year. However, Vietnam ranks the fifth among Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) about the number of international arrivals and tourism income.
Vietnam’s tourism sector is still shy of its potential. So, which has prevented the tourism from becoming the country’s key economic industry? By 2008, revenues from tourism hit roughly US$4 billion yearly. The figure, however, is far from the expected. Bui Xuan Nhat, former vice head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) said the first reason is the weak awareness of planning and development of tourism facilities; in conservation and restoration of values of culture, history and landscapes. For example, areas of Trang Tien, opera house or Bac Co in inner the capital city should have planned into flower gardens rather than building of Hilton hotel; the Tam Dao tourism site in Vinh Phuc province has become degraded; beaches in Halong Bay of Quangninh province have been encroached by the Hoang Gia hotel project; Van Phong gulf in Khanh Hoa province is about to become an uncultivated gulf because of a shipbuilding plant.
In contrary, the tourism has been developing at the expense of negative effects on the environment. Danang is among big urban areas of the whole country, playing a role as the central region’s socio-economic centre. With the network of modern facilities, the city is scheduled to have 32 tourism sites with a total area of more than 2,500 hectares by 2020. With such high development density, plus with the absence of attention to the environment protection at tourism sites, many participants warn of high risks of polluting environment such as household garbage of tourists, domestic wastewater.
With a target to become one out of high-qualified coastal urban areas and to reach the title “City for Environment” by 2020, experts said that Danang needs to say no with pollution right from the start by developing a tourism industry without smoking and wastewater, limiting maximally investment projects outside industrial parks or nearby residential areas and tourism sites; encouraging investors of industrial parks to call for clean projects.
Apart from issues involved in the planning, inproper treatment to relics and cultural values is also an emerging problem. During the exploitation process of intangible and tangible heritages which are thousand years old, we damaged the values by ourselves. Former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan cum former head of the national steering committee on tourism said “we are losing tourism values which we have been building for millions of years. The degraded beaches and pagodas, the historical sites become construction sites, he said. Historian Duong Trung Quoc noted wood stakes on the Bach Dang River, which are involved in the famous victory of forefathers, have not been properly reserved and restored. Particularly, he emphasized, the range of mountains barring the Quang Ninh-Haiphong seaport is about to be exploited absolutely to serve cement plants.
Some existing issues having not settled are restraining the development of the non-smoking industry. The overlapped and unclear system of laws is also causing difficulties for enterprises in the industry. Specially, the regulation on driving speed limitation on highways leads to the prolonged traveling time, inhibiting passengers. The limitation of passenger cars to enter main streets of Hanoi also cause difficulty for traveling agents and bring in bad impressions for tourists.
Although each locality has own potential and advantages to develop tourism, Professor and Doctor Nguyen Quang Thai, vice chairman cum general secretary of the Vietnam Economic Association noted the awareness of many agencies and local authorities on the role of tourism in the country’s socio-economic development remain low.
Many localities have not yet given favorable conditions for the tourism development. Vietnam’s tourism has not yet received investments in line with its role in the economy. The infrastructure, transport, electricity and water systems to serve tourism have not been invested and improved. The restoration and conservation of relics and landscapes have not yet been paid special attention to, particularly some vital facilities such as rest-rooms for tourists have not been built comprehensively despite having been mentioned for many years.
This explains why the competition rank of the country’s tourism sector still remains low. According to the Development and Research Institute of Tourism, in 2008 Vietnam ranked the 97th among 113 countries while Singapore stood at the 7th, Malaysia the 32nd and Thailand 42nd.
Economic experts recommended that to develop the tourism into a key industry, it is necessary to renew the management mechanism and policies; develop tourism products, expand more markets, improve infrastructures, train human sources, protect environment and landscapes as well as raise the awareness and boost the international cooperation.