This is in stark contrast to last year at the same period of time. A year ago, Vietnamese authorities were worried about the decline of total arrivals to the country, even asking themselves what was going wrong with the country’s image. A year later, it is all forgotten. According to the latest figures just being released today by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, total foreign arrivals from January to April are up by 17.9%, reaching 3.25 million. If arrivals by air are only considered, the growth is even stronger, up by 18.5%.
Most remarkable is the growth from the Chinese market. Despite sometimes the violent political rethoric between both countries over Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (in Vietnam called the East Sea), tourism from China is booming. Total arrivals were up by 47% from January to April, reaching close to 790,000 Chinese visitors. China represents now a quarter of all foreign arrivals to Vietnam. The upward trend is due to the development of new flights or increased capacities. Recently, Vietnam Airlines introduced to Beijing a Boeing 787 Dreamliner instead of its Airbus A320. They have been new frequencies introduced from Nha Trang by Beijing Capital Airlines, Spring Airlines and Jetstar Pacific while Beijing Capital is also serving Danang out of Sanya (Hainan Island).
China overtook South Korea as the largest inbound market. The performance of the Korean market still remains stellar as it grew during the first four months of this year by 30.2% with a total of 519,000 travellers. Among strong performing Asian countries, Thailand jumped by 29.6% to overpass 94,000 arrivals during the first four months of 2016. The Thai growth is also due to a flow of new flights by budget airlines offering excellent bargains. Nok Air, Vietjet, Jetstar Pacific and soon Bangkok Airways are adding new frequencies between both countries.
The abolition of visa for five Western European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) bear fruits. From the ten fastest growing inbound markets, four are in fact from this group of European countries enjoying the facility. Italy, Spain and the UK grew by over 20% from January to April while France finally recovered with total arrivals up by almost 14%.
While most countries enjoy robust growth of 10% and more, four countries register mediocre results. Both Australia and New Zealand are recording a moderate growth due to economic difficulties in Australia and declining currencies. Travellers’ figures from both countries are still up respectively by 5.6% and 3.1%. Neighbouring countries to Vietnam are also performing poorly: Lao PDR total arrivals are just up by a meager 1.3% while Cambodia is the only country showing a negative result: travellers from Cambodia to Vietnam are down by almost 44%.
If Vietnam tourist arrivals continue to progress at the same tempo until year end, the country can expect to welcome over 9 million foreign travellers in 2016. The Ministry of Tourism is now pledging to add more countries to the visa waiver program (also see article http://asean.travel/2016/05/02/vietnam-ministry-of-tourism-wants-more-flexility-in-visa-policy/ ) and to extend to 30 days the visa validity for Western European countries benefiting from a waiver program.