Poor infrastructure impedes Vietnam’s tourism

While other ASEAN countries have a flourishing tourism industry and are succeeding in luring visitors from other countries, Vietnam is ignoring the vital needs required to develop in this field.

Foreign tourists travel by cyclos in Ho Chi Minh City (Photo: Minh Tri)

Vietnam’s tourist attractions can compare well with those of other ASEAN countries like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia.

However, the country’s growth in tourism has not kept pace with that of other ASEAN countries, lacking in basic infrastructure and facilities vital in supporting tourism growth.

Whereas Thailand’s Suvarnabhimi Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport were included in last year’s list of world’s busiest airports recording more than 42 million passengers each, Vietnam’s current largest airport, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, is capable of handling only 20 million passengers per year.

Vietnam’s biggest airport, Long Thanh International Airport is still to be built, expectedly by 2015.
The traffic network in Vietnam too requires much improvement. While neighboring Thailand has developed a remarkable system of highways and subways, Vietnam still has to complete its road network linking its many provinces with each other.

Much of the existing road infrastructure, such as the road link from HCMC to Mui Ne Beach in the South Central province of Binh Thuan, have not been upgraded for years and the traffic congestion is worsening day by day. This is most inconvenient for foreign visitors who place road safety on high priority. 

The high cost of internal air travel also needs addressing. Even low cost airlines in Vietnam like Jet Star Airlines are unable to match the prices offered by Air Asia, Tiger Airways or Nok Air.

The cheaper airfares offered by Air Asia, for example, have played an important role in boosting tourism in Malaysia bringing in 23 million foreign visitors to Malaysia last year.  

Fares on inland flights in Vietnam are not only comparatively more expensive but surged by 25 percent in May this year. A return ticket from HCMC to Hanoi is approximately VND5 million (US$ 240). This pushes up costs of a tour by 20-30 per cent.

The high costs of tours in Vietnam are unattractive to foreign as well as domestic visitors. This has led to visitors choosing cheaper overseas tours to Thailand or Cambodia rather than an inland tour.

The success of the tourism industry in other ASEAN countries is also due to the great support offered by their governments as well as related businesses, especially airlines.

At the present pace of growth and development of infrastructure, it will take HCMC about 15-20 years to match the modern infrastructure like that in Thailand.

Visitors all over the globe are now quite keen to travel to unique destinations in Southeast Asia and if Vietnam does not get its act together fast enough, it will surely miss out on the vast tourism opportunities that the other ASEAN countries are taking full advantage of. 

By My Hanh – Translated by Huu Duy

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