The flagship destination of Chinese tourists for 2018? Vietnam undoubtedly, records a phenomenal increase in Chinese visitors: more than 60% of additional travelers were welcomed in 2017 compared to the previous year. This figure could increase further during the year to come!
Tourism in Vietnam
Tourism in Vietnam is experiencing a 31% growth in international tourism; in 2017, 4.2 million international tourists came to enjoy the charms of this beautiful country. Asian tourists lead the way; South Korean and Chinese alone account for 53% of Vietnam’s annual tourism, more than half of visitors.
During the first tourist quarter of Vietnam, no less than 1.36 million Chinese tourists moved to Vietnam. This represents an increase of no less than 42% of visitors from China to Vietnam!
Vietnam tourism… speaking about the facts!
The favorite season of Chinese tourists? Certainly not summer, much too hot for them. They prefer to travel in winter and spring, when the temperatures are pleasant, and preferably the seaside to breathe fresh air. It’s good, because one of the three golden weeks is during the Chinese New Year! This explains why the arrivals of Chinese tourists in Vietnam focus on the first quarter of the year.
During this period, the arrivals of Chinese tourist are estimated at 5000 per day, stretching endlessly at the tail end of the airports or ferry terminal. Yes, there are still many to choose the organized group tour to reduce the costs. They are not hundreds, but several thousand to wait, passport in their hand, to cross the Vietnamese border and start the adventure.
By the way, do Chinese tourists necessarily travel to Vietnam by plane? Well, no. According to statistics from the Quang Ninh mainland seaport, which says it opened the doors to no less than 600 cruise ships in a fortnight – a record! – with more than 70 percent Chinese passengers. The geographical proximity of Vietnam to China allows a trip by sea, much less expensive than a plane. Of course, that’s not to mention the regular wrecks of boats with dubious technical control, but that’s another subject.
The reasons for this craze for Vietnam
The reappearance of “Zero Dollar” tours
Zero Dollar tours, what did you say? These are tours officially set up by the Vietnamese Government and supported by Chinese investors. The principle of these tours is simple: accommodation and meals on a simple basis are free, but mandatory shopping stops are an integral part of the travel plan, and tourists are urged to lighten their wallet. These souvenir shops are of course run by Chinese investors, even though they are under the ownership of Vietnamese.
How can these tours finance themselves? It is a pure marketing strategy born from the association of travel agencies with these souvenir shops, which share the income from these forced shopping stops.
A honest principle? Absolutely not, since these are shops exclusively reserved for Chinese tourists on these organized trips, and the Vietnamese locals themselves are not allowed to enter.
When Zero Dollar tours became a problem
A deal that agrees to both parts? Not necessarily, because these incentives to purchase are real harassment coming from the tour guide’s side. This problem is already well-known to Western tourists of the first hour in China, who have experienced the same in organized trips, before the media coverage of the phenomenon.
The margin applied to these products is of course much higher than that of the real market, to compensate for the “offered” basis of the travel. In the end, tourists would end up spending more on on-site shopping than the real cost of traveling in those rustic accommodations and mass transportation.
If we are to believe the increase in complaints from Chinese tourists, it would not be just harassment and moral pressure to encourage the purchase: tourists report being physically attacked for refusing to spend their money in these stores. These complaints led to the closure of about fifteen stores and an official investigation. Nevertheless, the Zero Dollar tours are starting again this year, without discouraging Chinese tourists who come back in force!
This is not a phenomenon that exclusively affects tourism in Vietnam: Thailand also practices Zero Dollar Tours.
Vietnam relies on Chinese tourists
Vietnam needs Chinese tourists, the first source market for international visitors. Tourism spending could contribute 10% of the Vietnamese economy in 2020 if growth continues!
The country hopes to receive 20 million international visitors and increase its income by 15% each year. A very ambitious estimate, which is probably not in line with the country’s environmental protection, an area in which much remains to be done in every developing country.
How Vietnam facilitates the arrival of Chinese tourists
Halong Bay attracts a maximum of Chinese tourists for its symbolic beauty, but not only. Located in Quang Ninh province, the decision has recently been made to allow organized Chinese tourist groups to stay up to 72h without a tourist visa, which greatly facilitates the comings and goings.
Some countries already have a visa exemption, such as South Korea and Japan. In view of Vietnam’s desire to attract more and more Asian and international tourists, the procedure should extend to the main EU countries, which are economically rich.
Visa procedures are also simplified for short-term travelers or regular business trips: they can now be done online.
Beyond the visa procedures, these are also advertising campaigns set up in mainland China in medium-sized cities, targeting the average Chinese population and boasting Vietnam destination.
Let’s see if these strategies bring the expected return!
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