15:49 | 31/05/2019 Travel
More than 7 million foreigners visited Vietnam in January-May, attesting to the country’s rising popularity as a tourism destination.
|Tourists take boat ride on Trang An River in Ninh Binh Province - Photo by Shutterstock|
Vietnam welcomed 7.3 million arrivals during January-May, up 8.8 percent from a year ago, putting the country on track to meet its annual target of receiving 18 million foreigners this year, according to the General Statistics Office.
Most foreign visitors arrived by air, accounting for over 80 percent of the total.
Tourism officials have attributed the increase in numbers to international tourists spending their summer breaks during Vietnam's festival season, marked by many cultural events organized across the country.
Most of the foreign tourists were from Asia, with the numbers rising 10 percent year-on-year to 5.6 million, accounting for 76.8 percent of the total.
Despite a slight decrease of 0.8 percent, China remained the biggest source of visitors with nearly 2.1 million, followed by South Korea, the second biggest market, which recorded a 22.4 percent increase to nearly 1.7 million.
Neighboring Thailand topped the growth of foreign tourist arrivals in the first five months of this year at a whopping 47.5 percent year-on-year, reaching 215,000.
The recent launch of direct flights connecting Vietnam’s top tourist destinations like Da Nang, Nha Trang and Da Lat with Thailand’s tourism hubs has pushed this growth, market observers said.
The number of tourists from European market grew by six percent from a year ago.
While Vietnam is the midst of a tourism boom with a record high of 15.5 million foreign arrivals in 2018, a year-on-year rise of 20 percent, the numbers have remained lower than that of neighboring countries in the region.
Thailand (38 million), Malaysia (25 million) and Singapore (18.5 million) remain far ahead of Vietnam,
At a National Assembly session last year Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue said the country needs to stop relying on crude oil and focus on tourism to sustain its economic growth.
"It's better to get one million tourists than try to find one million tons of crude oil because tourism is more eco-friendly and safe for the economy," Hue said.
Many travel agencies have said that Vietnam should further relax its visa policies and simplify procedures to attract high spending tourists from Japan, North America, Northern Europe, China and South Korea.
They have called for the current 15-day visa exemption extended to 30 days.