HCMC – Vietnam should deliver a message that the country is safe to tourists as workers protests against China’s illegal deployment of an oil rig in Vietnam’s waters in mid-May are over, suggested Kenneth Atkinson, managing partner at Grant Thornton (Vietnam).
At a press briefing on Wednesday announcing the 2014 annual survey on hotel service in HCMC, he said such promotion needs support from the Government. Besides, Vietnam Airlines should offer free trips to Vietnam for foreign travel agents to help them look into the actual situation.
Though protests of workers in HCMC, Binh Duong, Ha Tinh and Dong Nai provinces no longer occur, many foreign tourists do not know of this situation since they access information via foreign newspapers which may contain some misleading stories. This can leave a negative impact on tourism.
According to Atkinson, the impact of tensions in the East Sea on tourism mainly results from protests in Binh Duong and Ha Tinh as tourists are concerned about safety. Meanwhile, the declining number of tourists from Hong Kong and China is mainly a result of political factors.
He added that East Sea tensions will continue affecting Vietnam’s tourism, including the business performance of hotels and resorts. The central region and some northern provinces will be most impacted as they used to cater to a large number of Hong Kong and Chinese tourists in the past.
Foreign arrivals in Vietnam in the January-June period still rose 21.1% to over 4.28 million. However, according to Grant Thornton, Vietnam’s hotels and tourism have been adversely affected by the East Sea situation.
According to Grant Thornton’s survey conducted with 18 hotels, there were 14,945 rooms of three- to five-star hotels canceled until July.
However, Atkinson was still optimistic when forecasting foreign arrivals in Vietnam may rise 15-20% this year. He added that tensions in the East Sea only affect Chinese arrivals while the number of Singaporean, Malaysian, Australian and Russian visitors to Vietnam is forecast to soar in the coming time.
In the long run, issues concerning the East Sea will not impact business activities of hotels and resorts. Nevertheless, instead of focusing on attracting Chinese tourists, hotels should also shift their attention to other visitor-generating markets, according to Atkinson.
Big groups of tourists from Taiwan and China contribute much to Vietnam’s tourism but they do not spend much. Therefore, Vietnam should attract individual tourists from the U.S. and European countries, he noted.
According to the 2014 survey on hotel service of Grant Thornton, business travelers, individual tourists and tourists traveling in groups were the three main groups in 2003-2013. The growth rates of the two latter groups were 3.1% and 2.8% respectively last year.
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