Focus on Vietnam: the rising star of global tourism

International travel to Vietnam more than tripled between 2010 and 2018 to over 15.5 million

It might not be the most popular destination in Asia or in the world just yet, but Vietnam has been one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations over the last couple of years. No wonder there since Vietnam’s heritage offers truly spectacular sights. It features 3,000 km of coastline, scenic rock formations, rich culture and history, and so much more.

The overall figures reveal that the numbers of international travellers to the Southeast Asian country have increased three-fold since 2010, from some five million to 15.5 million in 2018. Compared to 2017, the numbers for 2018 are up by 2.7 million.

International travellers boarding a China Southern plane — Joshua Davenport / Shutterstock

The latest figures show that the majority of international visitors to Vietnam prefer travelling by plane, followed by ground and sea transportation.

Asian travellers — mostly Chinese and Korean — dominate the tops of the charts. February estimates for Chinese travellers were 516,351, and 383,205 for Korean.

February’s runner-up was Europe. Although, with the estimated 228,986 international arrivals, it fell far behind Asia.

Vietnam’s growth in revenue reflects the significant influx of global travellers. In 2018, it reached $26.75 billion (620₫ trillion), which is up $4.75 billion (110₫ trillion) compared to 2017 — or about one fifth higher than the year before.

Vietnam is increasingly more popular among Chinese travellers

These days, Vietnam is appearing more often on the radar of Chinese travellers. Bookings for travelling to Vietnam are even higher than those for Thailand, which is still one of the most popular destinations for Chinese travellers.

The numbers in 2018 were 27 per cent higher than in 2017. The average growth over the past four years has been 35 per cent looking at February.

Currently, there are 30 Chinese cities with services to Vietnam, compared to 26 two years ago. The number of routes has grown from 53 to 64 over a period of 12 months since January 2017.

Furthermore, Chinese passport holders no longer need to apply for a visa prior to leaving for the country. They can simply get a visa-on-arrival in Vietnam.

Chinese travellers can obtain a visa-on-arrival in Vietnam — Shuang Li / Shutterstock

The two go-to destinations for Chinese travellers are Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, in the south of the country, and the capital city of Hanoi in the north. Vietnam’s beach resorts are gaining popularity as well.  

Vietnam in danger of overtourism

In recent years, some Southeast Asian countries have been so popular that overtourism is now an everyday struggle. Vietnam’s following the footsteps of other crowded areas within the region and might become yet another victim of the phenomenon.

Phu Quoc, one of the up-and-coming islands at the southern tip of Vietnam, opened its international airport only seven years ago and already faces tourist overcrowding. It probably does not help the situation that the island welcomes international travellers to stay for up to 30 days without having to obtain a visa.

Another destination that is popular among both domestic and international visitors are the Ha Long Bay’s rocky islets. Ha Long is located in the north of the country, on the coast to the east of Hanoi. Vietnam has recently opened a new airport there — Van Don International Airport. The new travel hub considerably cuts travel time to Ha Long Bay for overseas visitors.

The reality is often different than expectations — imrankadir / Shutterstock

Already back in 2012, travel journalist, Mary O’Brien, wrote that “the reality behind the picture-postcard views is worrying”.

“When I visited […] our boat was surrounded by container vessels. The beaches near docks and piers are often strewn with rubbish and travel sites have noted complaints from visitors about pollution,” she added.

If unregulated tourism to the country continues, soon international travellers might have nothing left to visit.