The latest figures from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) reveal that investment in tourism promotion remains quite low, at just $2 million per year, or 2.9 per cent of that spent by Thailand, 2.5 per cent of Singaporea��s outlay, and 1.9 per cent of Malaysiaa��s.
VN tourism falling behind regionally
Vietnam now ranks fifth in ASEAN in international tourist numbers, with 7.94 million arriving in 2015.
This, again, compares unfavorably with Vietnama��s neighbors, being equal to only 27 per cent of the number visiting Thailand, 52 per cent of Singaporea��s, and 31 per cent of Malaysiaa��s.
While Thailand and Singapore have seen strong growth in 2011-2015, of about 12 per cent per year, Vietnama��s was only 7 per cent a year. Vietnam was also behind Laos (15 per cent), Myanmar (51 per cent) and the Philippines (8 per cent).
Indonesia has recently introduced visa exemption for citizens of 79 countries and territories, bringing the total number to 169, as part of its efforts to attract 20 million visitors by 2019.
The number of countries with visa exemptions to Vietnam is only 22, despite much effort being made.
Travel agencies in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia have invested over $100 million each year in their national tourism agencya��s promotion activities and they also have a network of representative offices in key markets.
Given the circumstances, Vietnam will have great difficultly in catching up with leading regional countries.
VNAT estimated that international visitors in May totaled 757,244, a fall of 4.1 per cent over April but up 30.2 per cent compared to May last year.
Total international arrivals in the first five months stood at 4,005,878, an increase of 20 per cent year-on-year.
The increase has mostly been from European markets, where many choose a holiday in warmer climes.
As for Asian markets, after a long period of decline China recorded the highest increase in March, double the number in March 2015, followed by Thailand and South Korea, with increases of 48.5 per cent and 28.4 per cent, respectively.
Taiwan and Cambodia were the only markets to see falling numbers, by 1 per cent and 6.8 per cent, respectively.
With the current level of growth, Vietnama��s tourism industry will achieve its target of becoming a key economic sector by 2020 if the global political and economic situation remains stable, according to a report from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on the tourism development strategy to 2020 and vision to 2030.
The current conditions and method in the future
Vietnam hopes to welcome 8.5 million foreign visitors and cater to 60 million domestic travelers this year, earning a total of VND370 trillion ($16.8 billion) in revenue.
Despite the positives, the figures do not reflect the difficulties and challenges the tourism sector must address in the future.
Issues include outdated infrastructure, which creates problems for travelers reaching tourist destinations, especially mountainous areas, while tourism products are not unique.
Vietnam also lacks professional human resources and budget funds are limited for tourism promotion and for scientific research and the application of science and technology compared with other countries in the region.