Vietnam is a tourism market with high potential for growth. Vietnamese tourist arrivals to Thailand have been increasing rapidly at an average of 28 percent per annum over the last 5 years (2001-2005), or more than a doubled from 80,071 persons in 2001, to 195,457 persons in 2005. This is due to the supportive drive of the Vietnamese economy, which is growing steadily, and also boosted purchasing power, overall. In addition, the Vietnamese government has a policy of opening the country and easing the rules and regulations on bringing currency out of their country, which has resulted in more Vietnamese people traveling abroad. The most popular tourism destination for Vietnamese tourists is China, followed by Thailand.
The market of Vietnamese tourists tends to grow steadily since 2006, driven by the following key factors:
- The steadily high growth of the Vietnamese economy
- Thailand is the second most popular tourist destination after China, as Thailand is a short-haul trip, making it convenient for travel and not so expensive. Particularly after the construction of the 2nd bridge across the Mekhong river at Mukdahan to be finished at the end of this year, travel by car between Thailand and Vietnam will be more convenient.
- Higher convenience in air travel between Thailand and Vietnam, due to the entry of low-cost airlines (Air Asia) offering service since the end of 2005, and the development of new international airports in central Vietnam at Danang, apart from airports in the North at Hanoi and in the South at Ho Chi Minh City.
- Thailand organizing grand tourism activities throughout 2006 to attract foreign tourists, i.e., the auspicious occasion of the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty the King Ascending the Throne, June 9-13, 2006, and the International Horticulture Exposition for His Majesty the King (the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006), November 1, 2006-January 31, 2007, in Chiang Mai.
Considering the numbers of Vietnamese tourists traveling to Thailand via Bangkok International Airport during the first-seven months of 2006, we see that it risen by 24.8 percent. That reflects a trend of continuous growth for the Vietnamese tourist market with the many supporting factors helping. KASIKORN RESEARCH CENTER (KResearch) estimates that there will be totally around 250,000 Vietnamese tourists visiting Thailand this year, increasing by 28 percent over 2005 and earning Thailand tourism income of around THB3.7 billion, increasing by 20 percent over last year.
Aside from being a high potential tourism market, Vietnam is a new tourist attraction of Indochina that is playing a more significant role, especially after the tsunami disaster. The trend of international tourism is tending toward change away from Thailand and Indonesia to Vietnam. In 2005, foreign tourists traveling to Vietnam rose by 18 percent to 3.47 million tourists. This year is the ;National Tourism Year of Vietnam 2006”. As a result, the Vietnamese government expects that the numbers of tourists will reach 3.6-3.8 million arrivals.
Although Vietnam is a new tourist attraction that is becoming highly popular with foreign tourists because of its cultural and architectural diversity, multiracial integration and thousand-year-old archaeological and beautiful nature tourism sites, such as seacoast, waterfalls and tropical forests, its support services for tourists are insufficient and the quality of it is substandard, particularly at four- to five-star hotels.
As a result, Thailand should turn this situation into a benefit where we may expand the foreign market by cooperating with Vietnam to promote both Thailand and Vietnam together in foreign countries as a package destination, using the readiness of up-to-par Thai services that can support tourists and covering every region of Thailand, plus outstanding tourist sites in Vietnam that are quite new, plus their unblemished nature. Those assets could benefit the tourism of both countries, and it would be a way to share advantages, instead of competition for market share against each other.