Vietnam's Tourism in 2000 narows gap with countries in region

Ha Noi, Dec. 31 (VNA) -- The number of foreign arrivals in Viet Nam almost caught up with the Philippines and leaped to one-quarter of Thailand's figures this year, up from just one-tenth and one-40th, in the last decade.

The figures are included in an article written by Viet Nam Tourism Administration (VTA) Director General Vo Thi Thang for the national daily Nhan Dan.

The VTA welcomed the 2 millionth foreign tourist on Dec. 8, marking a huge leap from the 1 million the service received in 1994.

This year is expected to see a total of 2.13 million foreign arrivals, up by 20 percent year-on-year and an increase of nearly seven percent over the yearly target, Thang said.

In addition, VTA arranged tours for 11.2 million local holiday-makers, not counting tens of millions of others who did not register for overnight stay.

The VTA, therefore, earned more than USD 1 billion from services provided to foreign tourists and more than VND 3,500 billion from domestic holiday-makers.

These achievements were attributed to legal reform and improved services, according to Thang.

She wrote that a Platform on Tourism had been issued and a State Steering Board on Tourism, with Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Manh Cam as Chairman established.

Viet Nam has signed tourist visa-free agreements with Thailand and the Philippines, providing exemption of visa application for tourists from these countries who stay in Viet Nam for less than 30 days. Tourists from other countries also enjoy this privilege if they apply for a visit of around 72 hours (three days).

Chinese nationals can visit Ha Noi simply with a tourist card granted by Viet Nam in hand.

Legal reform was also seen in the border-gate provision of entry visas and a single-price policy for sight-seeing tours and museum tickets.

The VTA has managed to restore and develop a number of traditional festivals and set up inter-provincial tours of similar interests such as the Hue-Hoi An-My Son tour that links UNESCO-Cultural Heritage sites in the central region. These were highly appreciated by foreigners, Thang wrote.

The national flag carrier - Viet Nam Airlines - has contributed to the nation's tourism success by opening more and more international routes such as from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap of Cambodia, from the central coastal Da Nang province to Bangkok, Tokyo, and Seoul.

Overseas promotional campaigns have actively helped expand the market abroad, especially in the United States, Japan, France, Great Britain, Germany and Australia.

More than 140,000 Japanese tourists visited Viet Nam this year and the number is expected to reach 1 million by 2005, according to the VTA.

Given these encouraging figures, the VTA's targets for between four and five million foreign arrivals by 2005 and between six and seven million by 2010 are quite feasible.

The industry also plans to attract 25 million local vacationers by 2010.

Turnover, therefore, is expected to reach USD 2-3 billion a year, the tourism industry executive concluded.--VNA