Last week, at the India-Vietnam Tourism Promotion Conference held on August 17 in Ho Chi Minh City, government officials and industry representatives from both countries met to discuss how they can promote inbound tourism from the india Organized by the Consulate General of India in Ho Chi Minh City, the meeting was graced by Pham Van Thuy, Vice President of the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT) and Pranay Verma, the Indian Ambassador to Vietnam.
Recognizing that business connections between travel companies from both countries are crucial to growing the travel market in Vietnam, 34 travel companies from both countries held discussions and exchanged tourism information to increase travel demand from Indians to Vietnam .
In addition to leisure travelers, Vietnam wants to promote itself as a MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) destination and also as an overseas wedding venue.
In July, a group of 460 business leaders spent three days in Ho Chi Minh City on a trip organized by B2B travel company Asia Destination Management (Asia DMC).
Vietnam has been actively encouraging Indians to visit its country through a series of bilateral conferences and other activities such as sponsored trips for companies. VNAT hopes that these activities will allow its travel industry to access a market that has a population of 1.4 billion.
According to Tran Phong Binh, Deputy Director of Tourism Marketing Department, VNAT, 20 million Indians travel abroad on holiday every year. He said: “Vietnam has amazing scenic spots and a number of famous tourist destinations such as Ha Noi, Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa, Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, etc. Vietnam has everything the potential to attract Indian visitors to come, travel and relax.”
In his speech, he pointed out that the number of Indian visitors to Vietnam remains modest and an important way to boost this is to improve connectivity between the two countries.
Direct flights between cities are a key factor in promoting travel, as travelers do not usually enjoy sitting in a third country’s airport transit zone, sometimes for hours, waiting for a connecting flight. A direct flight between an Indian and a Vietnamese city takes five to six hours, but connecting via Bangkok or Singapore could double the travel time to 10 to 12 hours.
At the moment, low-cost carriers Vietjet Air and IndiGo together operate a dozen direct flights between cities in the two countries per week. In June, flag carrier Vietnam Airlines launched direct flights between New Delhi and the two main Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, twice weekly and thrice weekly respectively.
Vietjet Air recently announced that it will fly from the Vietnamese city of Da Nang to New Delhi and Mumbai. Da Nang is known for its pristine sandy beaches, but also conveniently connects to the ancient city of Hue and the picturesque and beautiful old town of Hoi An. Hue is known for its well-preserved ancient walled city and was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a pause in global travel, Vietnam hosted around 170,000 Indian visitors in 2019. This placed India 16th among Vietnam’s international source markets.
Tourist arrivals to Vietnam reached an all-time high in 2019 when it received 18 million visitors. During that year, the top country from which visitors came was China with 5.8 million arrivals, representing 21 percent of the total. It was followed by South Korea with 4.3 million, Japan (952,000) and Taiwan (926,000).
With Vietnam’s main traditional travel market still in varying degrees of COVID-imposed travel controls due to its strict disease mitigation policies, it is therefore no surprise that Vietnam is keen to explore new markets .
In this sense, success has been variable compared to its neighbors.
Since opening without quarantine in mid-March, Vietnam has attracted 602,000 tourists in the first half of the year. During the same period, Thailand had 2.2 million tourists, Malaysia 2 million, Singapore 1.5 million and the Philippines 814,000.
Vietnam aims to welcome five million foreign visitors this year, about 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
In addition to the lack of flights, the other obstacle cited by industry professionals is the strict visa policies.
Pham Ha, CEO of Lux Group, a luxury cruise operator, told Vietnamese online newspaper VN Express: “Many foreign tourists had canceled their trips to Vietnam because they could not get an entry visa. These Current visa policies are major obstacles to Vietnam’s tourism recovery.”
Vietnam has resumed its pre-pandemic visa-free policy for only 13 countries, including Western European markets, with a maximum stay of up to 15 days. For other markets, including India, it issues only one-month single-entry e-visa, rather than three-month visas as before the pandemic. Visa on arrival is also not available to visitors except those traveling on business. The eVisa must be applied for online and may take up to seven working days to be approved.
Despite the obstacles, Indians seem to have taken to this non-traditional destination.
Earlier this month in New Delhi, at the Outbound Tourism Summit organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Vietnam’s envoy to India, Pham Sanh Chau, said to the event participants that visas issued by Vietnam to Indians have increased. 24 times
“Before the pandemic, we used to issue 250 visas a day in India. However, recently we have been issuing 6,000 visas a day,” Pham said.
Speaking at the same conference, Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa with Thomas Cook (India), said: “Vietnam is seeing an increase (in interest) not only from businesses, but also from families , young professionals, millennials. and couples. Indians are open to a shift to destinations that offer convenient short-haul access and (are) easier on the wallet.”
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