With the number of tourists expected to increase in the future, Vietnam needs to have orientations and policies to develop tourism infrastructure in line with the goal of sustainable development, converting infrastructure from being an obstacle into a key factor for the growth of tourism.
With international tourist arrival of 1.4 billion in 2018 - two years earlier than originally anticipated - the tourism and travel industry will continue to foster connectivity across regions across the globe. The World Economic Forum's 2019 tourism competitiveness report shows that this growth is due to improvements in competitiveness, aviation infrastructure, international openness and travel costs.
However, the report also shows the need for infrastructure development - which may not meet the demand of 400 million visitors expected to increase by 2030. While infrastructure challenges vary from region to region with economic development, failure to address these challenges can reduce competitiveness and hurt tourism.
Infrastructure - including air, ground, ports and tourism services such as hotels and car rentals - plays a key role in the competitiveness of the travel industry.
Since 2017, air transport has been one of the most developed segments, with strong growth across most regions and sub-regions. However, much of this result comes from the opening of new routes and the operation of new aircraft. The need to improve the quality of aviation infrastructure - though it has been getting better since 2017 - has yet to be fully addressed.
Many figures also forecast that air travel demand and growth will likely exceed the infrastructure's response. By 2037, the International Air Transport Association predicts air travel could double, to 8.2 billion.
From a global perspective, the report also shows that the quality and efficiency of road transport infrastructure are still at an average level, almost no growth. With the expected growth of the tourism industry as well as the infrastructure requirements necessary to meet passenger needs, specific calculations are needed to overcome the huge deficits in investment in airport, seaport, railway and road projects.
Southeast Asia also recorded strong growth in tourism in recent years. But with tourism infrastructure at an average level, this area will likely have difficulty receiving new arrivals every day. Vietnam, Indonesia or the Philippines all have a great leap in the tourism industry, but despite improvements, scores of tourism infrastructure assessments in these countries are still below average.
Improving infrastructure in each country will play an important part in increasing the competitiveness of the tourism industry in the long term. Even countries with the advanced airport and road infrastructure can face challenges as customer demand is growing. This can lead to issues related to service quality.
In recent years, the tourism infrastructure of Vietnam, in general, has developed with the emergence of many great projects to serve tourists such as Van Don International Airport, Ha Long tourist cruise ship port, etc. But compared to the actual needs, every time the tourist season comes, the familiar images recur: overcrowding, congested roads, seaports serving serious shortage of tourists.
The number of standard hotels and accommodation establishments has a slow growth rate, not commensurate with the amount of tourist growth. The quality is also not synchronized. The number of 3-5 star hotels only accounts for a small part in Quang Ninh, with more than 50 establishments. Meanwhile, in 2018 the province welcomed over 10 million visitors.
Another problem is that the system of stops on the way to tourist destinations in Vietnam is spontaneous. There is a common mentality that when someone opens a restaurant and sells cakes, others will follow suit to make money in advance. The lack of an overall picture of the tourism picture of the region will lead to many duplicated services and items, which are difficult to impress visitors.
With the number of tourists expected to increase in the future, Vietnam needs to have orientations and policies to develop tourism infrastructure in line with the goal of sustainable development. Infrastructure needs to be shifted from what could be an obstacle to a growth destination for the tourism industry.