Given the global pandemic’s impact on the freedom to travel and tourist confidence, the tourism industry was forced to focus all its resources and initiatives on the domestic market to ensure a gradual recovery. In Vietnam, domestic tourists have already hit the 100 million mark to date, exceeding the 60 million target for the entire year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism reported.
A solid proof that the country’s domestic tourism is booming and able to bounce back strongly.
On the first week the bus operators resumed their trips to Phan Thiet’s Mui Ne, Dan, and his friends immediately booked a weeklong stay in the coastal village. “Being stuck at home for months made me unable to stop the urge to travel and be somewhere new,” Dan said. “I haven’t been to many places in the country, but Mui Ne is close to Saigon, so I booked our stay and packed my bags.”
Jakob spent his National Day long weekend holiday in Da Nang and nearby cities. A newbie in Vietnam, he’s only been to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. “My trip to Central Vietnam was a blast, and the only bad thing about it was I didn’t stay longer,” he said.
Not only expats are checking tourist attractions in Vietnam off their bucket lists. Locals like Thuy Anh did a road trip from Hanoi to Ha Giang and Sapa just before the face-to-face classes reopened. According to Anh, “ensuring overnight accommodation was the most challenging part since it was spontaneous and we didn’t follow a strict itinerary.”
Read: Vietnam’s Tourism Industry Can Recover By 2024, Research Suggests
Data from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism revealed the tourism sector generated VND456.7 trillion (over $19 billion) from January to November this year, thanks to domestic travelers like Dan, Jakob, and Anh. That’s 70% of the same period in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we travel.
Assoc. Prof-Dr. Pham Hong Long, Dean of the Faculty of Tourism at Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities, told the state media that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam’s tourism sector realized how dependent they have been on international visitors and left the domestic market untapped and underserved.
This year’s tourism sector’s goal was 60 million domestic visitors and five million international arrivals.
Compared to the 2022 numbers, Vietnam recorded 85 million domestic guests and welcomed over 18 million foreign visitors in 2019. The country was among the world’s top 10 fastest-growing tourism destinations during that time.
November records most number of foreign arrivals
When Vietnam reopened to international travelers in May 2022, its stiff visa policies pushed tourists to divert their destinations to other Southeast Asian countries. In fact, as of November 1, only 459,000 e-visas were issued, that’s only 9.1% of the five million goal.
Data show that November saw the highest post-pandemic international visitor arrivals.
Compared to October, November recorded a 23% increase or 596,900 tourists, according to figures from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.
The November tally also took total visitor arrivals for the first 11 months of the year to 2.95 million – up from just 157,000 through all of 2021, although still 81.9% lower than the same period in 2019, reads the report from VietnamNet.
Tourists from South Korea lead the way as the country’s primary tourist source, with 763,900 arrivals representing 26% of the total, followed by the US at 266,000 (9%). India, meanwhile, is one of the fastest growing source markets with 27,000 arrivals in November – 31% more than arrived in October — thanks to more connections to the country.
While total visitor arrivals remain well behind pre-pandemic levels, the tourism revenue is already 70% of 2019 levels, suggesting a higher quality of visitors.