Patrick Kwok is stunned at the number of arrivals in Hong Kong from Vietnam last year. The general director of business development of the Hong Kong Tourism Board says over 100,000 Vietnamese people traveled to Hong Kong in 2010, which represented a staggering growth rate of 33.1 percent year on year.
The upsurge in the number of Vietnamese taking outbound trips to Hong Kong is a crucial point prompting this territory’s tourism body to direct attention to Vietnam as a visitor-generating market.
Kwok, therefore, has over the past month made two visits to Vietnam to prepare for a far-reaching promotion program to tap the local market.
He is just one among representatives of many foreign travel agencies who have been coming to tap into the local tourism market’s potential.
An annual steady growth of the country’s outbound travelers has drawn a great attention of many tourism agencies from neighboring nations, including Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.
The neighboring country of Cambodia regards Vietnam as its largest visitor-generating market. Besides deploying many promotion activities at the annual International Travel Expo HCMC 2011, the Cambodia Tourism Association took the occasion to introduce Cambodia’s culture local customers, including performances by Cambodian art troupes at the HCMC Municipal Theater.
According to Cambodia’s tourism industry, Vietnam is its biggest visitor-generating market with some 470,000 visitors last year and this figure is projected to rise to about 550,000 this year.
Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have also established ties with local tourism industry players. This has created favorable conditions for these foreign sellers to receive strong support from local partners in promoting their products and services.
Despite some disadvantages for its tourism sector recently due to prolong flooding, Thailand has still attracted 452,000 Vietnamese tourists in the first ten months of the year, up 44 percent year-on-year, with the number of returning customers recorded at up to 68 percent.
South Korea has also joined the race to capture Vietnamese people’s attention. This country for the first time has launched several promotion programs to attract local buyers to Cheju Island.
Between last month and early this month, Patrick Kwok, general director of business development of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), had two working trips to Hanoi and HCMC.
The first trip witnessed local firms working with HKTB and several Hong Kong’s enterprises active in tourism and hotel and entertainment industries.
In the second trip, HKTB joined forces with China’s Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sports and Tourism in a bid to make its destinations more attractive for local buyers.
In reality, HKTB had prepared a strategy to approach local tourists when launching a series of unofficial promotion programs at the International Tourism Expo in HCMC (ITE HCMC 2011) in September.
Vietnam’s travel firms say the outbound segment has developed strongly owing to suitable policies that foreign counterparts have applied for local visitors and partners.
For instance, outbound tour buyers enjoy new services at existing tourist attractions with reasonable price levels, while local travel agencies have earned benefits with incentives offered by foreign sellers.
Foreign travel firms say they have to rely on Vietnamese partners as the best approach to attract Vietnamese travelers.
“No one understand the Vietnamese market better that local partners. We should meet with local businesses in person to develop the market rather than launching general programs for visitors to Hong Kong,” said Kwok of HKTB.
With such a view, several programs by HKTB have been executed by a Vietnamese company and this organization will likely appoint a local partner as its tourism representative in Vietnam.
Beside the affordable price of outbound tours, foreign tour operators have continuously renewed their old destinations with new services, meaning that both sellers and buyers have win-win deals.
For instance, tourists to South Korea have opportunities to enjoy different programs for every season. Notably, there are numerous airlines to the country, allowing passengers to have chances of netting free tickets.
In South Korea, all services ranging from means of transports to restaurants and sightseeing places are combined so as to provide convenient packaged services for visitors.
Or in Thailand, the owner of a shopping venue is willing to supply vehicles to bring visitors to his or her place, meaning the travel firm can cut costs and thus offer more competitive package tours to visitors.
In an interview with the Saigon Times Daily, Kwok unveiled his agency’s ambitious plan to tap into the local market within a year, including direct meetings, tour arrangements to Hong Kong for travel and media agencies, and efforts to launch new products and services at home.
HKTB also intends to establish a representative office in Vietnam at the end of the year. “We consider Vietnam one of the most crucial visitor-generating markets to woo,” Kwok said.