Vietnam tourism in 10-year leap

Linh Ngan
Linh Ngan
06:20:02 - January 26, 2021

With increasing appearances in the list of regional and global tourism awards, Vietnam is gradually asserting its offer with quality services in traveler’s experiences.

The numbers that can speak – the highlights to take pride of

In 2010, agriculture (including agriculture, forestry and fishery) accounted for 21% in the total GDP of the country while industry and construction accounted for 40.9%, and services accounted for 38.1%. By the end of 2020, the economic structure had completely shifted to services with the proportion of 41.63% in total GDP; agriculture, forestry and fishery only accounted for 14.85%, and industry and construction ranked second at 33.72%. Among other sectors in the service industry, tourism directly contributed to 9.2% of the national GDP (as of 2019). Vietnam’s revenue from tourism in 2010 was 96 trillion VND (equivalent to 4.45 billion USD), which jumped to 755 trillion VND (equivalent to 32.7 billion USD) after 10 years in 2019. It can be seen that the rapid growth of tourism has made a remarkable contribution to the service industry in the country’s total GDP, contributing to accelerating the transition to the development of services and turning services into the country’s economic spearhead.

Within 10 years, the number of accommodation establishments in Vietnam, especially 3-5 star hotels, has also grown rapidly. The number of 3-star accommodation increased by 2.2 times from 2010 to 2018 and the number of 4-star hotels increased by 2.5 times in the same period. Most importantly, the 5-star accommodation had the fastest growth rate, increasing 3.5 times after 9 years (2010-2018 period). This shows that more and more domestic and international corporations are realizing the potential of Vietnam tourism and start investing in the country. This is also a testament to the significant improvement in Vietnam tourism quality and image from a country well-known as the defender in the Vietnam war, as a cheap destination for backpackers to a destination for leisure travel with many cultural and historical values.

If there had been no outbreak of coronavirus at the beginning of 2020 causing international arrivals to be completely halted, 2020 would likely have been a year of thriving for the tourism industry, especially in the international market.

Hard work pays off

In addition to the capital Hanoi and the economic center Ho Chi Minh City, other cities and provinces in Vietnam such as Sa Pa, Ha Long, Phong Nha – Ke Bang, Da Nang, Nha Trang or Phu Quoc have also made a deep impression on international tourists. With more and more viral images like Son Doong cave or the Golden Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnam started to make its way to the international travel market. Thanks to the new emergence, visitors can partly catch the gist of how Vietnam has transformed into a more dynamic and modern country. In recent years, Vietnam has also continuously enrolled in many regional and international tourism awards such as the World Travel Award, Tripadvisor and CN Traveler magazine. In particular, although it is undeniable the great losses the tourism industry has suffered in the pandemic, Vietnam can still boast of being excellent in curbing the pandemic, paving the way for the reopening with the image of a safe destination.

Vietnam has cooperated with many international agencies to promote the country’s image in addition to conventional methods such as attending tourism promotion events held in other countries. Taking advantage of the technology and social media advancement, Vietnam has colloaborated with BBC and Facebook to show videos depicting its wonderful landscapes. Most recently, Vietnam has combined with Google Arts & Culture to create a collection of “Wonders of Vietnam”, introducing not only beautiful images of its beaches, its nature and its people but also accumulating historical, cultural and aesthetic and art values ​​such as “nha nhac (royal court music)”, “bai choi (cultural heritage bingo)” and signature architecture in famous destinations like Hue, Hoi An, My Son, Mekong Delta, etc.

Prepare for the sprint in the future

The number of international visitors to Vietnam in 2000 was 2.1 million, which increased to 5 million in 2010 and to 18 million in 2019. This means the number of international tourists growing at double digits and tripled every decade. However, the return rate of tourists is only as low as 10-40% and the spending of international tourists in Vietnam is also not high at the average of around 1,000 USD for a 9-day trip (as of December 2019). This can be explained as the experience, shopping and entertainment services have not really developed to meet visitors’ demand. In addition, tourism has grown too fast for the destination management offices and tourism businesses to catch up with the increasingly changing market landscape and the travelers’ behavior so as to manage efficiently and develop proactively and sustainably. Attracting international tourists is crucial but it’s even more important to make them keep coming back for more.

2021 is the year that marks a new decade as well as the year of countries and destinations around the world sprinting in the competitive “post-Covid recovery race” to adapt to the dynamic change in new normal tourism. In such a situation, we must constantly update new trends, especially focus on grasping evolvement in tourist behavior, pay attention to flexibility policies and safety measures, take advantage of new technology, apply digital transformation in the service to implement more effective and sustainable development strategies. Moreover, Vietnam tourism also needs to build a thorough and unified brand identity for destination branding as the whole nation instead of pushing it to the hand of the localities.


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