There is no shortage of reasons for why Vietnam is on the rise as one of the most desirable destinations for world travellers! Its landscape is made up of lush green rice terraces, winding rivers, verdant highlands and tropical beaches with opulent resorts such as La Veranda Resort on Phu Quoc island. This Southeast Asian country is a dragon-shaped strip that occupies the space between the East Sea and the Laos and Cambodian borders. It’s affordability and diversity of offerings as a destination make it accessible to a wide range of travellers who are interested in a memorable journey into a land of diverse culture, intriguing traditions and natural serenity.
Image source: nationsonline.org
TOP DESTINATIONS FOR TRAVELLERS IN VIETNAM
Second in size only to the southern city of Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Vietnam because of its style and sophistication that known worldwide. The city’s seasonal weather can be cool in comparison with much of the rest of the country during the winter months, offering a nice respite from the sweltering heat elsewhere.
Hanoi has been the capital of Vietnam since the Southeast Asian country was liberated in 1954 at the iconic Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Rich in history and culture, as well as historical and heritage landmarks, Hanoi now stands proudly as a monument to Vietnamese Independence. Visitors flock to see sites such as the Temple of Literature, which is an almost millennium-old monument to Confucianism dedicated to Vietnamese sages and scholars; Huu Tiep Lake, where an American B-52 bomber was shot down, the remains of which have been preserved in the lake; and the iconic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Travellers looking to enjoy some of the most picturesque natural beauty that Vietnam has to offer can head from Hanoi to the famous Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay is renowned for its emerald waters and rainforest-topped limestone mountains. Further north, in mountainous Sapa, travellers can journey into gorgeous terraced rice fields and meet the diverse ethnic groups that reside there. The H’Mong and Red Dao are particularly well-known for their exquisite embroidery and textile handcrafting.
The former Imperial City of Hue is a gem of a city that’s a bit off-the-beaten-path for most travellers, but an amazing destination for those interested in the rich cultural heritage and architectural history of Vietnam. It was from the royal seat of Hue that the Nguyen Dynasty ruled the country from 1805 until 1945. Hue was also the site of many intense historical battles, remnants of which can still be visited from the city’s centre. The opulent tombs of the Nguyen emperors shouldn’t be missed, especially the unforgettable splendour of the tomb of Khai Dinh. Hue might be categorised as a bit of a sleepy town in comparison to some of Vietnam’s more popular tourist attractions, but is a must-visit for any tourists with a desire to “peel back the layers” of history and gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of Vietnam.
Image source: shutterstock.com
Danang and Hoi An
Although just a short drive from one another, Danang and Hoi An cater to the sensibilities of world travellers in very different ways. Visitors seeking beachside chill-out time in one of Vietnam’s most quickly-developing cities travel in droves to Danang. Danang has recently developed into one of Vietnam’s most popular international tourism destinations, with its lavish beaches and neon-lit nightlife.
Image source: La Veranda Resort Phu Quoc
On the other hand, Hoi An, a historical melting pot with influences from France, Japan, China, and Vietnam, is a well-preserved ancient town. With a population of only about 120,000, its artisan appeal has earned it a place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s name translates as “Peaceful Meeting Place”, and this small city has a long history of being just that. Many, travellers come to Hoi An to seek out the skills of the diverse artisans and to gaze at the serene yellow tones of the buildings in this waterfront town. The islands off the coast of Hoi An make great destinations for tranquil day-trips, while night time in the ancient town is perfect for visitors seeking romantic nights over fresh cuisine, surrounded by indigenous arts and crafts!
Image source: La Veranda Resort Phu Quoc
Quy Nhon is one of Vietnam’s hidden gems, but it’s quickly on the rise as a premiere beachside destination for international travellers in Southeast Asia! The area has traditionally been a bit isolated from mainstream tourism, and for many years most of its visitors consisted of locals, and adventurous backpackers. However, recent development has turned the interest of many to this quaint coastal city with absolutely gorgeous, pristine and tranquil beaches.
Image source: saigonquynhonhotel.com.vn
“This doesn’t even feel like Vietnam anymore…” Is a phrase you hear a lot from travelers in Dalat. The capital of the central highland province of Lam Dong is a beautiful example of the French-Indochine architectural influences that are present to this day throughout Vietnam. In Dalat, you might feel like you’re in a mountainside town somewhere in Europe.
The architecture, infrastructure, and cool, brisk air, all give Dalat an atmosphere like no other place in Vietnam. Add to that a diverse range of activities, from visiting the majestic waterfalls of Datanla, to meandering amongst into some of the most interesting pagodas in all of Vietnam. For those looking for some repose, it is also a perfect place to relax in a mountainside coffee shops that were famously frequented by some of Vietnam’s most well known literary and musical icons.
Image source: tripsavvy.com
Travellers to the historical La Veranda Resort Phu Quoc who are interested in continuing their journey into the bygone beauty of the 1930s should definitely put Dalat on their list.
For a place that’s generally regarded as a beach resort town, the southcentral city of Nha Trang has a surprisingly diverse range of activities to enjoy for those seeking a lively beachside getaway. Nha Trang is best known for its beautiful sandy beaches. But visitors will also find amusement parks, mud baths, golf, and the historic Po Ngar temple complex, as well as a variety of hotels and restaurants. Adventurous foodies can sample bun cha ca, a sumptuous local dish made from sailfish and jellyfish. For some time now, Nha Trang has been a haven for Russian vacationers seeking to warm up with some sea and sun, so when you see them, raise your glass and say “nostrovia!”
Image source: wikimedia.org
Ho Chi Minh City
With a population of over 10 million people, the Southeast Asian metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is the largest in Vietnam. Saigon is well-known for its “openness”, having a reputation to being welcoming to foreign visitors, which gives it an international appeal. Visitors are usually surprised by the variety of international food offerings and the city’s bustling nightlife.
Image source: La Veranda Resort Phu Quoc
Cultural landmarks like the War Remnants Museum and Independence Palace are must-sees for history buffs. Old pagodas, eateries in shady hems (alleyways), chaotic bike-traffic, and streets brimming with the energy of daily life all make up the fabric of Saigon. You could spend a lifetime exploring this city and still only skim the surface!
Due to its pristine blue waters, expansive beaches, and the luxury and boutique resorts dotting its coastlines, Phu Quoc island, is often referred to as “the Maldives of Asia”.
Phu Quoc doubles as a family-friendly as well as a romantic getaway for people looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some ocean views and tranquil time along the natural beauty of the seaside.
La Veranda Phu Quoc Resort is known as one of the top luxury boutique hotels on the island. This AccorHotels Group MGallery Collection Heritage hotel lives up to its reputation as a standalone destination for those who are looking to immerse themselves in gastronomic cuisine, and cultured beauty.
Image source: La Veranda Resort Phu Quoc
Complete with spa, an organic garden, beachside villas, a wellness center, and some of the finest dining establishments on the island, this elegant, colonial-style mansion on Dai Beach has been attracting guests with luxurious downtime and tranquil solitude. Whether you’re looking for an immersive adventure, or a secluded sanctuary, La Veranda Hotel Spa and Resort in Phu Quoc has everything you could want for your island getaway as you explore all the magical experiences that Vietnam has to offer.
Like Acapulco, Bali and many other famous beach destinations, it was adrenaline junkies looking for the next big wave who ‘discovered’ Ninh Thuan’s coastline. With dramatic cliffs dropping into the sparkling blue ocean and a dry climate matching Greece’s Aegean region, the Vietnamese province is increasingly becoming a favourite spot for kitesurfers from around the world.
Kitesurfing is becoming a mainstream sport. With nearly two million enthusiasts worldwide it will be included in the 2024 Summer Olympics for the first time. Jumping on a surfboard and being pulled by a giant kite has captivated some of the world’s most influential people such as Richard Branson, Larry Page and President Barack Obama. In 2016, Forbes Magazine claimed kitesurfing was the new golf for business executives.
It was only 10 years ago when a few of these adventurous people drove motorbikes north from Mui Ne up the coast and past the city of Phan Rang. Passing goats on a narrow one-lane road winding through small hamlets and fishing villages, they made their way to the ocean where the wind was roaring. At first it was a group of South Koreans who began coming every year, spending three months in the area. A Vietnamese kitesurfer from Mui Ne also began bringing his friends to his secret spots and soon the word spread. However, back in those days the drive took all day and no beach facilities existed for the kiters, meaning only the very adventurous made the trip.
Progress Towards Becoming a Sports Tourism Destination
Image source: traveltimes.vn
By 2014, things began to change. New roads and bridges were completed. A coastal road was widened and extended making the spots easily accessible from the nearby city of Phan Rang. The early explorers to the area began developing simple shelters and offering local food and drinks at their favourite spots. A beach club catering to kiters opened. Each year their numbers doubled and by 2016, word was spreading well beyond Vietnam. That year in February, The Kiteboard Tour Asia held Vietnam’s largest professional kitesurfing event in Ninh Thuan. In the summer, one of the leading kitesurfing equipment manufacturers launched an important new product line at Ninh Chu Bay. Marketing photos taken of that week’s activities still circulate through the sport’s media. Kitesurfing publications noticed too. That year articles appeared in two issues of Kite World Magazine and Ninh Thuan was featured in TheKiteboarder Magazine’s top international destinations publication—a first for Vietnam. Remarkably, Ninh Thuan and the capital city of Phan Rang may be better known in international kitesurfing circles than among foreigners who live in Vietnam.
Image source: phanrangkitecenter.com
It is the area’s unique geography and climate that attract the kitesurfers. My Hoa lagoon, 20 km from Phan Rang, is a huge coral reef that keeps the shallow water butter smooth but with clean-breaking offshore waves. From beginners to world-class, the spot is perfect for all levels and all types of kitesurfers. Adjacent to Phan Rang is the eight kilometre crescent, Ninh Chu Bay. The beach is lined by three-star resorts where kiters can walk from their room and jump on their board.
The climate is also distinct. Never cold, the province receives the least amount of rain in Vietnam and the most sunny days. Winter storms that typically pass nearby generate strong northerly winds but very little rain. In the summer the southerly trade winds get supercharged by the arid land to the south. Not many coastal locations boast two distinct wind seasons that allow kiting for over 10 months of the year.
A few professional windsurfers train in Ninh Thuan during the winter and equipment rental and lessons are available. Also, the best surfing waves in Vietnam break five kilometres north of beautiful Vinh Hy Bay. A handful of adventurous surfers already ride them during the winter. Ninh Thuan also offers other activities. One of the largest coral reefs in the northern hemisphere lies just off the coast and it is starting to be explored by snorkellers and scuba divers. Back on dry land, the hills around the area are perfect for trekking and mountain biking.
Change is Imminent but Enjoy the Cool Surfer Vibe for Now
Growth in the area’s sport tourism continues doubling every year. The South Korean group just arrived for this season—their 10th year. They will be joined by groups from Finland, Poland, Lithuania, Hong Kong and thousands of individual kiters from countries all over the globe. Quite a few of these kiters now return every winter creating a closeness of community you don’t feel in most places. On a given day, upwards of 200 kites cross back and forth along My Hoa Lagoon.
Image source: phanrangkitecenter.com
The facilities have grown to match the demand. Four large kite schools have opened, each with a restaurant and rooms. Guesthouses and house rentals are popping up near the kite spots and locals who never may have seen a foreigner before are now developing businesses focused on them. Land that was thought nearly worthless five years ago is in demand as Ninh Thuan’s coastline is suddenly a hot commodity.
Just like Bali, Ninh Thuan will change. The Australian surfers in the early 1970s were adventurous, off-the-beaten-path explorers. Those days are already in Ninh Thuan’s rearview mirror. Transportation has improved to the point where travel from the airport or train station takes less than an hour. The wide roads and light traffic make renting a motorbike relatively safe. Hi-speed internet, ATMs, grocery stores, pizza, and soon a movie theatre, are available in town.
The same wind and sun the kitesurfers enjoy now make Ninh Thuan the centre of Vietnam’s renewable energy industry. Hundreds of foreign energy workers stay in the area and more projects are starting. Finally, traditional tourism is also growing. Several highrise resort projects are being constructed along Ninh Chu Bay, and hidden away 10 kilometres past My Hoa rests the most exclusive resort in Vietnam (where many celebrities have tried their hand at kitesurfing). Even at My Hoa lagoon, kiters can take a break and lie next to the swimming pool while eating some of the best lasagna in Vietnam and drinking a cold craft beer.
If you have ever wanted to experience a cool surf culture vibe or you just want to break up your normal routine, Ninh Thuan is at that perfect crossroads of being both adventurous and accessible.
My friends and I had a few days off work, so we decided to get out of the city to relax. We found a quiet island in Central Vietnam, called Lý Sơn.
Lý Sơn is an island belonging to the Quãng Ngãi coastal province, bordering on Quãng Nam and Bình Định provinces in the North and South respectively. This island is commonly known as “The Kingdom of Garlic” because it is the only place in Vietnam where wild garlic and onions are grown in the sand. The garlic has a special flavour unique to this region, and is widely exported to the mainland.
Video source: eightyninePictures
Lý Sơn is also known for being the homeland of the Hoàng Sa Flotilla, a revered group of soldiers who protected the territorial waters around Vietnam during the Nguyen dynasty. On the island you will be able to see a myriad of relics and historical sites dedicated to these brave sailors.
Let me show you the best places to go on the island.
How to get to Lý Sơn?
The only way to get to the island from the mainland is to take a high-speed boat from the Sa Kì fishing port. The first ferry is at 8 a.m, then 10:30 a.m, 1:30 p.m, and 3:30 p.m.
In order to book your boat, make a list including: the number of people in your party, requested date, your phone number, your ID/ passport numbers, and your address, then send the list by email to email@example.com. You should send the email at least 10 days before your trip to be sure there are available seats on the boat.
The price is about VND140,000 each way.
Important tip: Don’t forget to bring your ID or passport; authorities will check it before you head to the island.
The best time to go to the central coast of Vietnam is from May to September. During the summer, you will have good sunshine, clean blue water and white sandy beaches.
Image source: vietnamtourism.me
Where to stay in Lý Sơn and how to get around?
Central Lý Sơn or Mường Thanh Lý Sơn hotels, are both conveniently located near the port.
If you want to explore the island you have the option of taking a Tiên Sa taxi or renting a motorbike at your hotel to drive around the island.
What to see in Lý Sơn?
Don’t forget your camera because there will be plenty of photo ops.
Here we go!!!
The island is divided into two parts: Lý Sơn, the main island, and An Bình, Lý Sơn’s little brother. Lý Sơn island is only about 10 kilometers from end to end; the top destinations are not far from one another, so it is easy to move around.
Hang Câu Cave
To get to Câu cave, you can start from the center of the island and head North-East towards Thới Lới mountain, around 15 minutes. Right at the base of Thới Lới mountain, Câu Cave will appear in front of your eyes like a beautiful painting, blurring the boundaries between ocean and mountain.
Image source: 3.bp.blogspot.com
Over the centuries the lapping of waves and the coastal winds effaced the rock and burrowed Câu Cave into the body of the mountain.
Image source: images.ndh.vn
It is a perfect location for wedding photography, picnics, and swimming. The sea water is crystal-clear, making it easy to see the blanket of seaweed and colorful coral within.
Đỉnh Thới Lới (the Top Thới Lới) - An Extinct Volcano
Head to the top of the street from Câu Cave, and you’ll find yourself on the peak of Thới Lới. Here you can pause for a moment and enjoy the view of the lush green plants on the island.
Image source: wetrek.vn
The concave top of Thới Lới mountain is unique because it was a crater millions of years ago. Now, it has become a large lake. Covering the lake is a carpet of grasses and algae, which make it look like a savanna on the top of the mountain.
From the summit, when you look towards the east of the island, you’ll see fields of garlic and onion. Look towards the sea, and you’ll discover two small islands, Mù Cu and Đông ward, which are the most beautiful places to watch the sunrise.
Chùa Hang (Cave Pagoda) - A Pagoda in a Cave
Bricks were not needed to built the pagoda because the cave was eroded naturally, over the course of millions of years, by the ocean waves. A Guanyin statue was erected outside the entrance, and locals come here to pray for peace for their families and good luck for the fishermen, as they head out for their catch. Thanks to the pagoda’s unique structure, it attracts many tourists. If you come to Lý Sơn, don’t forget to come say a prayer for your family and friends.
Image source: khamphalyson.vn
Tip: Don’t wear shorts or tank-tops. In Vietnamese culture, wearing conservative clothes when coming to a pagoda is a sign of respect for the Buddha.
Cổng Tò Vò (Tò vò gateway)
Tò Vò Gateway is the second most important tourist destination after Câu Cave. You CAN’T MISS this place when you come here.
Tò Vò Gateway is a stone archway with a height of 2.5 meters. The unusual shape was organically created from the lava of the volcano millions of years ago.
Image source: travel.edu.vn
Come here in the evening to watch the sunset. The contrast of the sea with the gateway and the dark lava rocks lurking in the waves make this a great location for photos in silhouette.
What to see in An Bình island?
An Bình Island is the perfect quiet location for tourists with its palm-lined beaches, white sand and clear blue water.
It is around US$5/ person for a round trip boat ticket to the island.
Image source: 1.bp.blogspot.com
An Bình island isn’t as crowded as the other islands. However, it has a breathtaking landscape. Take a dip in the fresh sea water and enjoy the sounds of the ocean and nature.
An Bình, meaning peace, lives up to its name; this island definitely gives a sense of complacency and comfort. All feelings of sadness, stress and frustration ease away.
So what are you waiting for? Go!
What to eat in Lý Sơn?
This island is famous for its healthy garlic and seaweed but you can also enjoy the seafood. There are many kinds of fish, snails, sea urchins (a rich source of nutrition for men) and the delicious Red Frog Crab.
Image source: img.delicious.com.au
There are numerous restaurants selling seafood near the fishing port, but here are a couple of restaurants that we tried and loved:
• Get out of Vietnam’s big cities and head to one of Vietnam’s national parks instead
• Phu Quoc National Park is great for marine life
• Cat Tien is the place to go if you want to stay close to Ho Chi Minh City
• Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park is best for exploring caves
• Ba Be National Park is a waterfall wonderland
• Vietnam’s Con Đao National Park is a protected wildlife sanctuary
• Cuc Phuong National Park is close to Hanoi and was Vietnam’s first national park!
Image source: blogspot.com
When people speak about destinations in Vietnam, many people will recommend big cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, or beautiful islands such as Co To, Phu Quoc, Cat Ba etc. However, Vietnam is also famous for its many national parks. We introduce to you some well-known ones.
1. Phu Quoc National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Phú Quốc)
Phu Quoc is now one of the most overdeveloped islands in Vietnam, but more than half of Phu Quoc island is a national park, which is home to a diverse ecosystem with more than 200 kinds of animal and 1000 pieces of plant. Here, you can see some rare old-growth forests and Dipterocarp trees more than 100 feet high. From Ganh Dau village (làng chài Gành Dầu), you can reach Phu Quoc national park very easily for hiking, camping, scuba diving and so on. Dive deep into the clear water to see the abundant marine life, or explore this national park by riding a motorbike along its paths.
2. Cat Tien National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Cát Tiên)
Cat Tien national park is in Dong Nai province (tỉnh Đồng Nai), not too far from Ho Chi Minh City. It is said to be one of the most worthwhile parks in the south of Vietnam. This area is home to many primates and a great trekking destination. Going into this park in the early morning, you will hear the birdsong and cries of gibbons amongst the trees. Do not pack too much because this park nowadays offers tourism facilities for camping or paddling along the waterways. And, do not forget to get to Cat Tien Bear Rescue Centre, where you will see many amazing animals such as Asian black bears and sun bears.
You can travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Cat Tien national park by motorbike or coach, but the most suitable way for tourists is by coach. Buy a ticket at Mien Dong coach station (Bến Xe Miền Đông) and get to Cat Tien national park for only 150,000 VND.
Image source: i-to-i.com
3. Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Phong Nha - Kẻ Bàng)
Phong Nha - Ke Bang national park in Quang Binh province (tỉnh Quảng Bình) is famous for the largest cave in the world with whole ecosystems and forests within, called Son Doong cave (Hang Sơn Đoòng). With more than 300 caves, many waterways, mountains and forests, Phong Nha - Ke Bang national park is now a famous destination for tourists from all over the world. It is one of the must-see places in Vietnam and will provide long-lasting memories.
From Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, take a flight to Dong Hoi airport and then catch a motor taxi to Phong Nha - Ke Bang national park.
Video source: National Geographic
4. Ba Be National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Ba Bể)
Ba Be national park is home to mountains, waterfalls, caves and rivers. It is a tourist attraction thanks to the diversity of ecosystems with protruding peaks, plateaus and vast lakes. Making a boat trip to explore the waterways is an excellent thing to do, and you can hike through the plethora of forests with stunning views down to the lakes. You can also visit local villages to gain an insight into daily life.
Ba Be national park is 240 km north of Hanoi in Bac Kan province (Tỉnh Bắc Kạn). In Hanoi, Mr. Linh's Adventures at No. 83 Ma May Street organises a range of tours and homestays in the region—see MrLinhAdventure.com.
Video source: Mr Linh's Adventures
5. Con Dao National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Côn Đảo)
Con Dao national park combines marine environments with tropical forests, pristine beaches, lush mangroves and coral reefs. The area is strictly protected and retains a wild and majestic beauty.
From Tan Son Nhat international airport in Ho Chi Minh City you can fly to Co Ong airport (Sân Bay Cỏ Ống) on Con Dao island.
Image source: vietnamcoracle.com
6. Cuc Phuong National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Cúc Phương)
This national park in Ninh Binh province (Tỉnh Ninh Bình) south-west of Hanoi is a famous destination with pristine trails and beautiful landscapes. It was Vietnam’s first national park and is the country's largest nature reserve, with a wide range of flora and fauna. It an attractive area for adventurous visitors.
From Hanoi, hire a motorbike or catch a coach at Giap Bat station (Bến xe Giáp Bát) to get to the park.
Image source: tripspoint.com
Have you been to any of these places? If so, share your experiences at xxxx.
Emily Pham shares her love of the country, including essential information on where to go and what to do, through her blog site vina.com.
Banner Image source: travelandinspiration.com
Should Vietnam Rethink Tourism? Interview with Patrick Gaveau
The typical travel route for tourism in Vietnam is from the north to the south, and sometimes the other way around. How is this style of tourism killing Vietnam’s potential as a tourist destination?
I wouldn’t say it’s killing it, but certainly it’s restricting the potential for growth. For many travellers, in particular from Australia and other English-speaking markets, Vietnam is still very much seen as a “bucket list” destination, a once-in-a-lifetime trip not to be repeated. For some it is their first trip to Southeast Asia, though more often than not they’ve already travelled multiple times to what we call “fly and flop” beach destinations like Thailand and Bali.
Image source: baohaiquan.vn
Though Vietnam has some very attractive beaches, it is seen more as a cultural travel experience and it struggles to compete with its more established, experienced neighbours. When the potential of new sites or areas is recognised, these are too often monopolised and destroyed by local interests.
What does the current tourist industry look like in Vietnam?
If you look at these source markets, you will see they are filled with competing general sales agents all offering what on the surface seem to be similar types of travel itineraries, and they are all fighting for a piece of the same pie. There are plenty of unique and specialist offerings out there, but these are primarily suited to niche interests and usually don’t receive the same sort of marketing attention. There are real costs associated with all forms of distribution, so products need to pay their way, so to speak, in terms of return on investment.
So, you think it’s primarily a marketing issue?
The issue around effectively marketing and promoting non-generic itineraries is there, but it’s further challenged by the limited knowledge of traditional travel agents. Many of them haven’t travelled to this part of the world, so they stick with what they know and trust, through a tried and tested product.
Image source: baomoi.com
Familiarisation or educational trips invariably focus on the main highlights of the country through a north to south trip (or vice versa), so they just don’t have the confidence or knowledge to go beyond this.
Few tourists return to Vietnam for a second trip. Why do you think this is?
There are a host of reasons: the lack of an effective national tourism body to market the destination; the relatively high cost of travel; the cumbersome and expensive visa process; the over-development and pollution of natural attractions; the constant tourist rip-offs; substandard services and a flawed hotel rating system.
What other travel patterns or tours should be created to change this and to encourage more return trips to Vietnam, as it is in Thailand, for example?
There are probably only two main reason travellers would return: to visit an area not previously seen, or for a traditional beach-style long stay. Of the latter, we are seeing the emergence of Danang/Hoi An as a destination for repeat travellers (more so than Phu Quoc, though this is also increasing), though the percentages are still relatively small. This should continue to grow as infrastructure slowly improves.
Image source: baotuyenquang.com.vn
As the number of hotels and resorts increases, so will the competitiveness of rates, along with an increase in international carriers adding direct routes to Vietnam.
How can travel agents help tourism in Vietnam grow sustainably?
They can market and develop a range of innovative packages specifically aimed at these returning travellers. These could include (but aren’t limited to): special city stays with unique inclusions, like going to the less-visited central highlands region. This could be easily combined with a Danang or Hoi An beach stay or a stay in the country’s far northwest, like Sapa, Mai Chau which are both easily accessible from Hanoi. Or you could have Mekong Delta overnight cruises as opposed to the commoditised day tours. This could also include the longer Mekong cruises, which have become so popular in recent years. All of this can be combined with the proper promotion of Vietnam’s best beach locations and advice on the best time to visit the various regions. These more often should be included in planned familiarisation or educational trips, ensuring that travel agents broaden their knowledge for use in the sales process.