A report of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism VNAT showed that in 2000-2012, the state’s budget spent VND410 billion in total on the tourism promotion activities. This did not include the money spent on the ad campaigns on big TV channels, the domestic tourism promotion plan and the visa waver program.
On average, Vietnam has $1.5 million every year for the tourism promotion activities, a very modest figure if compared with Thailand or Malaysia which budgets over $100 million on the campaigns.
“$1.5 million is not deserving a country which attracts 6 million foreign tourists a year,” said Luu Duc Ke, Director of Hanoitourist.
The sum of money, though being very modest, has been allocated to VNAT and the International Cooperation Agency under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Therefore, the VNAT keeps complaining over the last many years that it — which acts as the watchdog agency in the field, has not been given sufficient power to carry out tourism promotion programs in the most possible effective way.
In other words, VNAT does not have enough money and does not have enough power to decide where and how much to spend money.
VNAT has proposed to reserve one dollar from the revenue from every foreign traveler to invest in the tourism promotion programs which aim to lure more travelers to Vietnam.
Since January 2013, the visa fee has been raised from $25 to $45, which means that the state budget would have $70-80 million more ever year. Therefore, VNAT believes that the budget is big enough to increase the investments on the tourism promotion activities.
Ke of Hanoitourist also said he wonders why the money from the visa fees has been allocated to the diplomatic agencies, but not the tourism sector which would use the money to lure more travelers.
According to Ke, of every $45 worth of visa fee from every traveler, $5 should be spent to promote tourism. And if noting that about six million travelers come to Vietnam every year, Vietnam would have $20-30 million a year for its tourism promotion activities.
However, even if this comes realistic, the figure would still be much lower than that spent by Thailand and Malaysia which budget five times more on tourism promotion.
No proper mechanism on spending money
The problems of Vietnam’s tourism not only lie in the lack of money to be spent on tourism promotion, but also in the lack of a reasonable mechanism on spending money.
VNAT has released a report on the measures to heighten the efficiency of the tourism promotion activities. However, the director of a travel firm commented that no new solution has been mentioned in the report.
Nothing new has been found except the application of e-marketing in tourism promotion and the intention of setting up a tourism promotion website, he commented.
It seems that Vietnam is still fumbling about what to do and how to spend money to improve the efficiency of tourism promotion campaigns.
La Quoc Khanh, Deputy Director of the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said tourism promotion activities are not simply organizing trade fairs, exhibitions or attending events overseas. More importantly, the central agencies need to figure out the reasonable strategies to develop markets.