In recent years, the Vietnamese tourism industry has seen a rapid development. At the 2018 World Travel Awards (WTA) Asia & Australasia Gala Ceremony held in Hong Kong on September 3, Vietnam has remarkably surpassed other nations and territories in the list of nominees to win the "Asia's Leading Destination" Award. This is a prestigious award, voted by the top experts and travel organizations in Asia.
Vietnam is also ranked sixth by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in the list of top ten countries with the fastest growing tourism industry in the world. After reaching 10 million international visitors in 2016, Vietnam in 2017 has welcomed 13 million tourists from other countries, and achieved the target of receiving 15 million international visitors on December 19, 2018. Among them, the number of Korean tourists accounts for a huge proportion. By the end of November 2018, the number of Korean tourists coming to Vietnam reached 3.16 million, an 46.5% increase over the same period of 2017, and the second most important visitor market after China.
Vietnam has become an attractive destination for international travelers in general and Korean tourists in particular due to its beautiful natural scenery, exotic culture, delicious cuisine, and friendly people. As a tropical country on the Pacific Coast, Vietnam possesses abundant natural beauty. For sea tourism, Vietnam has more than 3,200 km of coastline, more than 2,770 coastal islands and about 125 beaches and bays, including natural wonders such as Ha Long Bay, with premier aesthetic and global value for geology and geomorphology; Nha Trang Bay, considered the "Jewel of the Far East"; Lang Co Bay, an official member of the World's Most Beautiful Bays Club; Phu Quoc Island with luxurious beachside resorts; and exquisite beaches like My Khe Beach (Da Nang), voted by America's Forbes magazine as one of the six most attractive beaches on the planet.
Additionally, the multifaceted culture of the 54 ethnic groups is a prominent feature of Vietnamese tourism. Many ethnic minorities still preserve pristinely their traditional and cultural identity with regards to their outfits, customs, architecture and lifestyle, which proves attractive for keen visitors. Foreign tourists visiting Vietnam can experience the life of each region and locality through cultural tours such as Cultural Events and Festivals tours, Traditional Handicraft Village tours or Rural tours, while also have the opportunity to enjoy the exotic cuisine of Vietnam. The essence of Vietnamese cuisine is not only reflected in the unique way of cooking, the combination of ingredients and seasoning, but also the style of eating, savoring the food of the Vietnamese people from all three regions of North, Central, South. The similarity in culture and cuisine between Vietnam and Korea also contributed significantly to attracting Korean tourists to Vietnam.
Furthermore, the stable status of political security is also a favorable factor for Vietnam to become an increasingly attractive destination for international visitors. The US Business Insider website has once announced a list of more than 150 safest destinations in the world, where Vietnam ranked sixth in the top 10.
In order to realize the target of developing tourism into a spearhead economic sector, the Vietnamese Government has issued many policies to support tourism businesses, improve service quality and tourists’ experience, while fostering several favorable conditions for international tourists to visit Vietnam.
Firstly, the marked reform of visa issuance policy for tourists to Vietnam. This includes the implementation of visa exemption policy for 22 countries, including, unilateral visa exemption for 13 countries (Japan, South Korea, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belarus), and visa exemption on the basis of reciprocity with 9 other ASEAN countries. At the same time, the issuance of electronic visas and visas at the border gate will help simplify the entry process and procedures for foreign visitors. Since the implementation of these policies (2014) to 2017, the number of Japanese visitors to Vietnam increased 2.43 times; South Korean tourists increased 3.6 times; Russian tourists increased 7.45 times, and the total number of tourists from five Western European countries increased 1.3 times in the period of 2015-2017 compared to 5.01% in the period of 2010-2015.
Secondly, focus on investment in technical infrastructure for tourism, including the development of road, rail, air and sea transport infrastructures in service of improving the transport linkage to tourist sites and spots. The Ha Noi - Hai Phong - Ha Long - Van Don Expressway, in particular, helps shorten the travel time to important tourist destinations in Northern Vietnam, thereby creating a momentum for the development of tourism in this region. Moreover, the Government of Vietnam has created favorable conditions for domestic and international airlines to open new air routes connecting with Vietnam, increasing the frequency of available routes; innovating international and domestic airports, and building new airports (Van Don – Quang Ninh).
The Government of Vietnam also encourages investing in the formation of tourist service complexes, large-scale tourist service projects, and high-quality shopping and entertainment centers in key tourist destinations. In 2014, the Elite Daily website voted Vietnam and nine other countries as the most cost-effective destinations in the world, and in fact viewed the price factor as a competitive advantage, comparable to an advantage in other natural resources to promote and attract international visitors to Vietnam. Over the past three years, with exceptional changes in appearance, Vietnam is gradually breaking away from the image of "cheap destinations" of the world. Vietnam has made its name on the global stage through prestigious awards such as those bestowed upon the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort - the World's Leading Luxurious Resort for four consecutive years, and JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay - The World's Best New Resort in 2017.
Thirdly, create a favorable environment for businesses to develop tourism. Create a transparent and fair working environment for enterprises and ensure the security and safety of tourism activities by setting up hotlines to receive visitors' feedback, in order to to strengthen the inspection and examination process; encourage enterprises to innovate, invent and diversify the varieties, products and services of tourism; associate tourism with activities and products of culture, arts, and handicraft villages; create favorable conditions for citizens to directly participate in business and benefit from tourism; build a civilized and welcoming tourist community in interacting with tourists; support the development of community tourism, rural tourism, and ecotourism.
Fourth, the Government of Vietnam issued a Directive on the Strengthening of Ability to Access the Fourth Industrial Revolution on May 4, 2017, which prioritizes the development of smart tourism, with the objective of promoting the application of information technology in tourism management and business activities. Some notable projects include the application of 360-degree photographic technology in tourism; the development of automated and voiced tour guide software on smartphones; deployment of free wireless network in many public places, etc. to facilitate the sightseeing experience of tourists. Tourism businesses in Vietnam has also invested in technology and deployed many smart applications to meet the needs of tourist with regards to the process of searching and booking airfare, hotel rooms, vehicles, restaurants, etc., empowering visitors to actively formulate their own plans.
Specifically, on December 5, 2018, the Government of Vietnam approved a plan to "restructure Vietnam's tourism industry to turn it into a spearhead economic sector" with the main focus on restructuring the visitor market, strengthening the system of tourism products and destinations, developing the human resources in a suitable framework, restructuring tourism enterprises, restructuring resources for tourism development, and consolidating the tourism management system. With Vietnam's ceaseless efforts to improve and develop its tourism, Vietnam's tourism sector is predicted to continue its miraculously growth, with the goal of contributing over 10% to the GDP by 2025. Additionally, the promotion of a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, along with the development of economic, political, diplomatic relationship and personnel exchanges between Vietnam and Korea has contributed, is contributing and will contribute to increasingly enhance the tourism business between the two countries.