Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vietnam's financial crisis knocks on door of tourism industry

VietNamNet Bridge – It is now the high tourism season, but there are not many foreign tourists coming to Vietnam at this moment. The number of businessmen at big hotels in HCM City has also decreased. The world’s financial crisis has knocked on the door of the tourism industry.


Number of tourists down by 30%


According to the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT), 315,000 foreign tourists came to Vietnam in September, a decrease of nearly 50,000 tourists compared to September last year. While the number of tourists from China, Russia and Germany increased slightly, the numbers of tourists from the US, France, Japan and South Korea have seen considerable decreases.


According to the Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Tran Chien Thang, the ASEAN Tourist Forum (ATF) 2009 will take place from January 5-12, 2009 in Hanoi. This is the first time Vietnam will host the annual regional forum.

Thang said that the ATF 2009 will focus on improving service quality and improve administrative procedures in order to create the best conditions for inner-ASEAN tourism. In the immediate time, when far markets like Europe and North America have decreased, ASEAN tourism should pay attention to medium-size markets like Japan, Australia and South Korea, and especially, to ASEAN tourism with reasonable prices.

The official number of tourists in October has not been revealed yet, but the director of a travel firm said that the number might see a decrease of 30%. Five-star hotels in HCM City and Hanoi say that the number of clients staying at the hotels is smaller than during the same period of last year, though it is now the high season for western tourists to come to Vietnam on their winter vacation.


The director of a travel firm that specialises in serving MICE tourists complained that the number of clients has decreased by 50%. He said that in previous years, it was very difficult to book hotel rooms, but now travel firms can easily negotiate room rates.


Local planning and investment departments in HCM City, Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces have also confirmed that the number of foreign investors coming to learn about investment procedures has decreased. The staff responsible for providing information at the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Zone Management Board said that if the board previously received some 10 investors, it was now receiving only 3-4 investors.


Struggling with the financial storm


An official from the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment said that it is not a surprise to see the number of investors decrease in the current difficult conditions.


Foreign tourists on HCM City’s streets

“What we need to do now is to make a breakthrough to urge investors to disburse for licenced projects when they are considering the places to inject money into,” he said, adding that only by doing so can Vietnam prove that it is an attractive destination.


The official said that recently, a delegation of Nigerian businessmen came to Vietnam to seek investment opportunities. A delegation of 200 Italian investors will arrive in Vietnamearlier the next month with the same purpose. The governor of the US’ Idaho state has led a delegation of US businessmen to Vietnam to market US farm produce.


At the Vietnam-Nigeria Business and Investment Forum held in Hanoi on October 24 by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mustafa Bello, Managing Director of the Investment Promotion Committee, said that Vietnam’s strong industries could be an attractive market for Nigerian businessmen to export materials to.


Explaining the reason that brought hundreds of Italian businessmen to Vietnam in the last few days, Marco Saladini, Italian trade commissioner in Vietnam, said that Vietnam is really an attractive market for Italian investors as it imports several billion dollars worth of equipment and production tools per year. Vietnam has caught the attention of investors also as a fast-growing retail market in the world.


The director of a tourist firm has urged state management agencies to take action to attract clients in the current difficult period. “While other countries have been trying to promote tourism, Vietnam still keeps quiet,” she said.


The director said that hotels owners in Vietnam should think about the fact that room rates in Vietnam are still 25% higher than in regional countries.