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My 2011 Vietnam Tourism Wish List

By: Tim Russell Posted: January-11-2011 in
Tim Russell

2010 was a great year for Vietnam’s tourism industry, with an estimated 5 million visitors – the best ever. Here are my hopes for 2011…

1. Visa on arrival
I know I bang on about this incessantly but there is little point marketing Vietnam as a tourist destination and then making it difficult for people to actually get in. Introducing a genuine visa on arrival process, and scrapping visas for key markets altogether, would see a huge leap in numbers for both new and returning visitors.

2. Taxi clampdown
Whilst the customs & immigration staff have improved greatly this year, the taxi situation at Tan Son Nhat Airport remains an embarrassment. Tourists, expats and locals are ripped off and mistreated every minute of every day by unscrupulous, seemingly untouchable taxi drivers. Clamping down on the cheats and setting up an organised queuing system would create a much better first impression for visitors.

3. More awareness of the benefits of tourism
Too many workers in the tourism sector see tourists as a one-off deal – they think tourists will only come once, so they try and squeeze them for all they can, and thus a self-fulfilling prophecy ensues. Creating more awareness of the benefits of repeat visits and word-of-mouth marketing will ensure a better environment for tourists and better long-term income for all in the tourism industry.

4. Better care for monuments and historic buildings
Vietnam’s ancient monuments are often in a pretty sorry state – poorly maintained, not signposted, shabby visitor facilities and hawkers allowed to hassle tourists with apparent impunity. And in the cities, fine colonial buildings are being destroyed on a weekly basis. Better preservation of these historic and cultural vestiges (just hop over the border to Cambodia to see how it’s done) will make Vietnam more attractive to tourists.

5. More fun-based marketing
Recent tradeshows and conferences have indicated that the authorities are getting their act together on the marketing front, moving away from serious, culture-based marketing towards campaigns that actually portray Vietnam as a fun place to visit. More please.

6. More boutique hotels
We often receive requests from customers visiting Saigon and asking to stay in a boutique hotel, but the sad reality is, there aren’t any. The insane price of land combined with the egotism of hotel owners and an obsession with corporate travellers means each new hotel is bigger and shinier than the last, with no-one interested in creating something small, intimate and different.

7. Traffic-free days
Indonesia’s capital Jakarta introduced traffic-free days on Sundays recently, leaving the streets free for families and tourists to walk, run and cycle in fresh air. The result – more people wandering the streets on a Sunday and a more pleasant environment. For one day a week at least it would be wonderful to see the streets of Saigon & Hanoi bereft of motorised vehicles, and even better, no honking!

8. Nightlife encouraged, not discouraged
A common gripe amongst tourists is that there is nothing to do in Vietnam at night, and whilst those of us who live in Saigon know where to go when we want a big night out, its pleasures are not obvious to visitors. Encourage entertainment districts, allow bars to open after midnight, and view bars/clubs as drivers of revenue and tourism rather than ‘social evils’, and Vietnam’s reputation will improve.

Those are my wishes for 2011 – what changes would you like to see in Vietnam’s tourism industry?

Tim Russell is Managing Director of Come & Go Vietnam.


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