A new grand opportunity for Vietnam Tourism

A new grand opportunity for Vietnam Tourism

It is expected that the development strategy for Vietnam Tourism to 2020, vision 2030, which has been approved by the Prime Minister, could actively foster the management and development of the sector.

However, there exist some certain obstacles in implementation of the strategy which should be resolved appropriately in order to fulfill the target of developing tourism into a key sector of the national economy. Mr. Nguyen Manh Cuong, Deputy General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, had an interview with Ha Noi Moi Newspaper on the above issue.

The development strategy for Vietnam Tourism to 2020, vision 2030 has been approved by the Prime Minister. From angle of the sector’s administration, how do you assess the impact of the strategy on the development of Vietnam Tourism?

- The strategy plays a significant role in the sector’s development and could help bring a new position for tourism sector with higher contribution to national GDP, positive influence on other sectors’ operation, creation of jobs and other considerable social-politic effects. Thus, this could be a new grand opportunity for tourism sector.

VNAT’s Deputy General Director Nguyen Manh Cuong and Mr. Akira Kanai – Chairman of Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) in JATA World Travel Fair 2009 in Japan

Do you think it is reasonable to name this a “grand opportunity”?

- It is, I think. The strategy, a guideline document of the sector, is both general and particular. We can see the interest of the Government in the tourism sector through 5 strategic opinions and other targets in tourism development. This affirms the position and role of tourism in the national development. Important breakthroughs could be made once the 7 solution groups and action plans for tourism development are comprehensively carried out.

The 5 strategic opinions and 7 solution groups are definitely of vital meaning. The problem posed here is many limitations have not been settled in reality.

- The very first opinion is to develop tourism into a key economic sector which should contribute increasing proportion in national GDP. It is a guideline opinion. The others include: developing tourism towards focused, modern and sophisticated manner, high competitiveness while ensuring sustainability, preserving and upholding values of culture, landscapes and environment; enhancing both inbound and outbound tourism, strengthening socialization to mobilize internal and external resources, taking full advantage of specific potentials of different regions... The strategy is macroscopic but also practical which indicates long term guideline and overall targets. So it is worthy a grand opportunity for tourism considering guideline opinions.

What difficulties tourism sector could face in effective implementation of the strategy?

- Some major challenges comprise global economic downturn, security conflicts, politic instability, epidemic diseases, natural disasters, fluctuation of fuel prices, exchange rates and specifically economic difficulties in source markets of Vietnam Tourism. Besides, domestic economic difficulties, high inflation rate, changing monetary and financial market..., poor tourist infrastructure, undiversified products and services... are considered main factors limiting the competitiveness of Vietnam Tourism.

In addition, there has been a fact that the system of laws and policies and current organizational structure of state management of tourism are not effective enough to fulfill the target of making tourism a key economic sector.

Limitation in management organizational structure
You mentioned the limitation of organizational structure. Could you be more specific and what could be possible solutions?

- Organization of multi-sector ministries is a sound policy of the Party and State, in conformity with the trend of public administrative reform. Nevertheless, from angle of practical situation, we realize that the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) with its current functional organization can not efficiently play a role of an advising agency of the multi-sector Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST). It is difficult for VNAT to actively propose and contribute ideas in tourist infrastructure investment projects since this funtion is assigned to the Department for Planning and Finance of the Ministry. Furthermore, VNAT does not have Tourism Inspectorate and only undertakes a part of tourist promotional function, beside some Departments of MoCST. Unfocused resources have resulted in limited effectiveness in promotion.

It is said that some major cities want to propose re-establishment of local tourism department to solve the difficulties in management. Do you think it is suitable? Some neighboring countries as Malaysia, Cambodia, and Philippines have established tourism ministries. What is your opinion about that?

- I think establishment of tourism ministry and departments is essential to strengthen the activeness and professionalism in management of tourism, as a key economic sector. It is true that some localities are expecting to establish tourism departments to enhance the effectiveness of tourism management and advising function for local administrative authorities. In the coming time, the Ministry of Home Affairs would work with VNAT on preparing proposal of establishing tourism departments at some major tourist localities submitting to the Government.

Linkage and coordination between sectors and localities
Do you think with current organization we are still capable of managing tourism activities effectively, avoiding low quality of products and services, bothering tourists... as seen in many places?

- That really should be fixed. However, there is a fact that tourism staff at local departments of culture, sports and tourism has not been sufficient after the establishment of multi-sector departments. Some of them were assigned to different positions or shifted to another work. Objectively, the tourism sector itself can not ensure a good tourism environment.

You mean the inter-sector linkage and co-ordination between tourism and localities, don’t you?

- That’s right. Though the co-ordination has been improved recently, the linkage of inter-sector is still not good enough.

What are the consequences of the loose linkage?

- Briefly, this would lead to poor satisfaction of tourist demand, bad impacts to images of destinations, challenges to the implementation of socio-economic development policies and the development strategy of Vietnam Tourism.
From the left: Mr. Nguyen Quoc Tuan, Head of representative office of Vietnam Airlines in Japan; Mr. Nguyen Manh Cuong, Deputy General Director of VNAT; Mr. Nguyen Phu Binh, Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan; Mr. Iwao Matsuda, Japanese senator; Mr. Tran Van Minh, Chairman of Da Nang People’s Committee, at the cutting-ribbon ceremony of Vietnam Festival 2009 in Tokyo, Japan

Could you be more specific about the issue?

- For example, some tourist boats in Ha Long Bay forced visitors to pay more than quoted prices; some taxi drivers at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat airports cheated passengers; or there was difference between quoted prices and actual amount of money visitors had to pay... at some tourist centers as Nha Trang, Ha Long, Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh City... The situation requires drastic measures of local authorities to ensure good tourist environment.

A good environment is not just about service prices, accommodation quality..., isn’t it?

- No, of course. A good environment is a combination of various elements and requires the involvement and tight cooperation between relevant stakeholders. Topas Ecolodge and Ban Den hamlet, Ban Ho commune in Lao Cai Province are among typical examples. Local authority was pushing hard to lure investment in tourism development and a Danish developer also invested money in building Topas Ecolodge in green manner by using solar energy, organizing responsible tourism... But the building of small-scale hydroelectric power plant created serious consequences on tourism environment and landscapes of the area. Sadly, this problem does happen not only in Lao Cai.

So how can we understand the inter-sector and inter-region linkages? Are they not a simple sum?

- They are not, definitely. Tourism development can be achieved only if close cooperation between ministries, sectors and localities are seen. Many barricades in tourism mechanisms, policies and procedures have been removed. However, in order to foster the facilitation of tourism activities, more efforts need to be kept on improving and simplifying procedures which relate to many sectors, say, customs or procedures for international tourists who want to bring vehicles into Vietnam...

People discussed a lot about destination quality – an essential factor to keep tourists longer or encourage international visitors to come back. This seems to depend on the coordination between tourism industry and localities?

- Most of cities and provinces of abundant tourism potentials have established tourism steering committees and actively organized culture, sports and tourism events, festivals... Whereas, some other localities of good tourism potentials haven’t had appropriate awareness of tourism’s role in socio-economic development, leading to inadequate investment in tourism and being unable to mobilize various economic resources for tourism development.

Strengthening tourism promotion
How do you evaluate the quality of Vietnam’s tourism promotion?

- We can see a significant improvement here. Vietnam has been emerging as an attractive destination since 2000. Yet the problem is lack of professionalism, limited financial resources for promotion activities, ineffective destination-branding... So it is VNAT’s role to take effective measures to control tourism promotion activities, avoiding the spontaneousness.

International arrivals to Vietnam have increased rapidly in the past few years. Do you think the number of 6 million international arrivals to Vietnam in 2011 convincing?

- I don’t think so. The number is still not equal with the potentials of Vietnam’s tourism.

Tourism promotion is considered as one of the reasons of the problem. What actions can tourism sector take here?

- Tourism sector has identified 8 focused tasks on tourism promotion, which aim at effective implementation of the tourism development strategy including improving market research outcomes, developing and promoting tourist destinations, typical products, active participation in global market, identifying targeted markets on base of thorough studies...

Thank you very much!
Translated by Truyen Phuong
Source: Ha Noi Moi Newspaper VNAT’s Deputy General Director Nguyen Manh Cuong and Mr. Akira Kanai – Chairman of Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) in JATA World Travel Fair 2009 in Japan