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Renovating planning, improving quality and efficiency of marine tourism to make it a true marine economic pillar
15/8/2019 15:25' Send Print
Phu Quoc island is beautiful and poetic. Image: travelvietnam.com.vn

1.Vietnam has more than 3,200km of coastline stretching through different climates and topography with beautiful beaches, bays, lagoons as well as diverse coastal islands with high potential for marine tourism. Twenty eight provinces and centrally-run cities have administrative coastal and sea areas covering 126,747km2, equal to 38.2% of the natural area and more than 40% of the population of the country.

Over the past time, the number of tourists to Vietnam’s coastal areas, the key tourism areas, has increased rapidly. In the period of 2008-2018, the number of international visitors to coastal provinces and cities reached an average of 14% annually, accounting for more than 85% of international arrivals to all provinces and cities in the country. Also in the above period, the number of domestic tourists to coastal provinces and cities rose by an average of 17% annually, reaching over 150 million, accounting for 75% of domestic travelers throughout the country. Total revenue from tourists to coastal provinces and cities increased by an average of 22% annually, bagging nearly VND 450 trillion in 2018, accounting for 70% of the total revenue from tourists of the country.

Marine tourism development contributes to the development of many other economic sectors, creating more jobs for people living in coastal strips, where there are currently 21.2 million people at working age and contributing to ensuring national security and defense and protecting the marine environment. More than 400 thousand people in coastal provinces directly work in tourism and 1 million people indirectly.

Investment in infrastructure and technical facilities for tourism in coastal areas is quite comprehensive. Infrastructure in general and tourism infrastructure in particular has been significantly improved, especially the road system. However, the development of air traffic and especially passenger terminals has not kept pace with development demand. The system of technical facilities for tourism in coastal provinces has expanded due to investment and rapid construction. By now, there are about 350,000 hotel rooms, accounting for two thirds of the whole country and a 10-fold increase in 10 years. Most of 4- and 5-star-hotels are located in coastal provinces and cities. The occupancy rate stands at more than 20%.

Given large coastal areas with thousands of islands and two archipelagos of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, marine tourism with many unique products plays a very important role in the Strategy for Tourism Development of Vietnam. Up to now, a clear map of tourist destinations and products in coastal provinces and cities has taken shape with the main products including visits and sea resort besides other important auxiliary products, such as cultural tourism, heritage tours, spiritual tourism, conference and tourism, MICE conferences. Along the country’s coastline, many tourist centers of high brands and competitiveness in the country and region have been set up, namely Van Don, Ha Long in Quang Ninh province, Cat Ba in Hai Phong city, Sam Son in Thanh Hoa province, Cua Lo in Nghe An province, Thien Cam in Ha Tinh province, Hue, Lang Co in Thua Thien-Hue province, My Khe- Non Nuoc in Da Nang city, Cua Dai, Cu Lao Cham in Quang Nam province), Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa province, Phan Thiet - Mui Ne in Binh Thuan province, Vung Tau in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, Ninh Chu in Ninh Thuan province, Phu Quoc in Kien Giang province. These tourist centers have annually attracted a large number of international tourists.

Compared with other areas in the country, coastal localities have attracted strong investment from society to develop a system of products and services, material and technical facilities, especially from strategic investors to areas of critical significance for Vietnam's tourism, such as Ha Long, Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang and some other areas with large-scale. projects, creating a driving force, a "leverage" for tourism development. Investments of corporations, such as VinGroup, SunGroup, Muong Thanh, FLC, BIM, Tuan Chau have contributed to forming a modern technical infrastructure system for tourism in many localities, including the hotel chain of Vinpearl Nha Trang, Phu Quoc and Ha Long; parks and recreation chain of Sun Group in Da Nang, Quang Ninh and Phu Quoc; resorts and golf courses of FLC in Quy Nhon, Sam Son, Quang Ninh, Quang Binh; Muong Thanh hotel chain in most of coastal localities. The rise of high-class entertainment areas and hotels, of international scale and quality, has contributed to strengthening the capacity and competitiveness for coastal localities and Vietnam tourism.

2. In the socio-economic development strategy, to ensure security and national defense, maintain national sovereignty, the Party and the State have always clearly defined the important role of the marine economy as well as the sea tourism as one of the key maritime economic branches. The 8th National Congress of the Party organized in June 1996 stated that the sea and coastal areas were strategic economic and national security areas with many advantages for development and an open door for the country to promote international exchanges, and attract foreign investment. Vietnam must make the most of the potentials and advantages of the sea and coastal areas, combine with security and defense, create posture and power to vigorously develop the socio-economy, protect and control national territorial waters. Resolution No. 09/NQ-TW dated February 9, 2007 of the 4th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, the 10th Tenure on "Vietnam Marine Strategy to 2020" also emphasized that the 21st century was considered by the world the "century of the ocean." Coastal countries are very interested in the sea and attach importance to the development of marine strategy. The East Sea area, including the sea areas of Vietnam, has a very important geographical-economic and political position, rich and diverse natural resources, and an increasingly higher role to national development. The Resolution pointed out that by 2020, Vietnam would become a strong and rich country based on the sea, firmly protect national sovereignty on the sea and islands, making an important contribution to industrialization and modernization.

Due to the position and important role of sea tourism in the tourism development of the whole country, the Prime Minister signed Decision No.2473/QD-TTg dated December 30, 2011, approving the "Strategy for the development of Vietnam's Marine Economy until 2020 with a Vision to 2030," and Decision 201/QD-TTg dated January 22, 2013 on "Vietnam Master plan on Tourism Development to 2020, vision to 2030.” The two documents identify marine tourism as the most important priority direction for tourism product development. The Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism issued Decision No. 2782 /QD-BVHTTDL dated August 15, 2013 approving the Project "Development of Vietnam's Sea, Island and Coastal Tourism up to 2020," which affirms the viewpoint of rapid and sustainable development of sea, island and coastal tourism, giving priority to the development of high quality marine tourism, linking marine tourism development to ensuring national security and defense, placing sea tourism in the overall socio-economic development of the coastal areas and in line with the Vietnam Marine Strategy to 2020. The project sets out the overall development goal that by 2020, marine tourism will become an engine for Vietnam's marine economy, contributing to achieving of the objective of "striving to make Vietnam a strong and rich country based on the sea by 2020, ensuring national defense and security, industrialization, modernization and turning Vietnam into a strong and prosperous country”; and successful implement the Strategy and Master Plan for Vietnam Tourism Development up to 2020, vision to 2030 approved by the Prime Minister. By 2020, at least 6 world class tourist destinations with high competitiveness in the region such as Ha Long-Bai Tu Long-Cat Ba; Lang Co-Canh Duong, Hoi An-Cham island; Nha Trang-Cam Ranh, Phan Thiet Mui Ne and Phu Quoc as well as tourist ports, such as Ha Long, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Quoc will be put into operation. It is expected that Vietnam will attract 22 million international tourist arrivals, and 58 million domestic tourists; the total revenue from sea tourism will reach over VND 200,000 billion, equivalent to US$10 billion; creating about 600,000 direct jobs and 1.1 million indirect jobs, equaling to 71% of total international tourist arrivals and 61% of total domestic tourist travel between localities, 68% of total revenue from national tourism. The project also clearly underlines 7 major development orientations, including sea tourism market; marine tourism products; promotion of sea tourism; development of human resources for marine tourism; arrangement of tourism territory; investment in marine tourism development; marine tourism in association with security and defense.

Resolution No.08-NQ/TW dated January 16, 2017 of the Politburo on "Developing Tourism into a Spearhead Economic Sector" emphasizes that tourism development is an important strategic direction for national development, creating a driving force for the development of other branches and sectors.

On October 22, 2016, the Party Central Committee issued Resolution No.36-NQ/TW on "The Strategy for Sustainable Development s of Vietnam's marine economy to 2030, with a vision to 2045," considering tourism a top priority area for marine economic development. Reality shows that among economic branches’ development in recent years marine tourism is an important advantage, bringing about a large revenue, making an important contribution to GDP structure, generating jobs, eradicating hunger and reducing poverty, developing infrastructure and technical facilities and meeting the requirements of sustainable development goals. Resolution No.36-NQ/TW also specifies that the strategy for economic development of marine tourism economy should focus on investment in tourism infrastructure; encourage and create conditions for all economic sectors to participate in developing eco-tourism, scientific exploration, community-based tourism, high-quality sea resorts in coastal areas; build, develop, diversify products, product chains, and world-class marine tourism brands on the basis of biodiversity conservation, promote the value of natural, cultural and historical heritage of regions and areas, connect with international tourist routes to make Vietnam an attractive destination of the world. Research on pilot tourism in islands and offshore areas. Raise capacity of search and rescue; promote scientific exploration; focus on marine education, and healthcare. Support and create conditions for people in coastal areas to give up jobs which potentially and negatively cause harm to the sea and take up jobs which protect, preserve, create sustainable livelihoods, stable new jobs, and increase income for people.

3- In the coming time, to strive to achieve the objectives of tourism development in general and sea tourism in particular, the tourism industry needs to renovate the work of planning, improve quality and efficiency for sustainable marine development and making sea tourism truly a marine economy pillar. Therefore, the tourism industry should focus on the following key tasks:

First, planning of marine tourism development.

First, adopt the viewpoint of focusing on planning and investing strongly in marine tourism to clearly and strongly establish the system of technical facilities, human resources, system of products and services of marine tourism of international standards, establish national sea brands, trademarks on sea tourism.

Second, concerning planning of sectors to serve the needs of marine tourism development, the top priority is planning of infrastructure system develop marine tourism. As a country with a sea advantage, and marine tourism, Vietnam currently has only 1 cruise ship port. Cruise tourism is an important development direction, attracting a large number of tourists, high tourism spending, and connecting international maritime routes. In the coming years, planning and investing must be made in the construction of a system of tourism ports, and change some cargo ports into a tourist ports. Other essential requirements are planning the network of airport in coastal provinces and islands to meet the growing needs of tourists, ensuring the growth target of the tourism industry.

Third, the planning of coastal tourist spots must take into account specific factors of sea and island advantages of each region and each locality. The planning and management of marine tourism development must be based on the real needs of the market, and avoid rampant development of tourism real estate. The planning of coastal areas, areas for sea and island-related tourism activities must be developed in the principle of sustainable use of marine resources.

Fourth, the planning of coastal areas must highlight key and nuclear areas, concentrate investment to build destinations with international and Vietnam sea tourism brands. Besides, it must includes also primitive areas of high biodiversity, lasting attractive destinations for the tourism market.

Fifth, the planning of coastal area tourism must take into account interdisciplinary connectivity, maximizing the value of natural resources, from beaches, marine landscapes to ecosystems on the coastline and under the sea, seafood to the cultural values and lifestyle of coastal residents. At the same time, ensure that the community are engaged in tourism activities as well as entitled to the rights to use public spaces along the coast. Promote planning of related products, goods and services to serve tourism activities.

Second, improve quality and efficiency to develop marine tourism.

First, review and promulgate standards, occupational skills, norms and specialized guidelines to ensure adequate guidance on tourism quality requirements. Coastal localities should apply current standards and regulations, in addition to issuing more specific local regulations in line with characteristics of natural resources in the areas under management, such as regulations on the management and use of beaches, regulations for marine sports activities, regulations on business activities at beaches. Specialized state management activities must be strengthened. The evaluation, control and inspection of specialized fields should be enhanced. Good practices need to be commended.

Second, focus on training, retraining and improving the quality of human resources for coastal tourism to ensure that they are in the leading group of human resources nationwide. In fact, tourism human resources of highest quality concentrate mostly in big cities and coastal localities. These are also the most concentrated areas of high-class service facilities. Therefore, tourism human resources in coastal provinces have opportunities to improve their capacity as well as leading quality, creating a common tourism quality level of international standards for Vietnam.

Third, attention must be given to capacity building of destinations. In order to build a strong brand of sea tourism, destinations must be attractive, safe, friendly, in order and ensure environmental hygiene. Local administrations must be responsible for ensuring the tourism environment and building a tourist destination image. The Code of conduct in tourism activities should be abided by each destination. Public facilities and institutions, related services for tourists need to be standardized.

Fourth, encourage businesses and investors to develop diversified marine tourism activities based on planning orientations to diversify products and services of sea tourism. Develop sea-resort tourism, sea sports tourism, sea scenic spots tourism, marine eco-tourism in accordance to planning and specific resources of each locality. Encourage the development of high quality products, ensuring the conditions and regulations on environmental protection and sustainable development.

Fifth, strengthen promotion, image building and marine tourism brand positioning. These activities do not only aims at widely promoting Vietnam’s marine tourism image and brands among international friends, but also building trust among people and social communities about marine tourism potential and internal strength of a strong and rich country from the sea, and at the same time meeting people’s demands of recreation and enjoyment.

Vietnam’s sea, islands and coastal areas with precious resources must be exploited and used reasonably and sustainably. Tourism as a spearhead economic sector, smoke-free industry, must be developed in order to affirm its pillar role, facilitate the development of the marine economy, related branches and sectors, affirm sovereignty, territory and positioning of a strong maritime country, successfully implementing Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW dated October 22, 2016 of the Party Central Conference, 8th Tenure on "Strategy for the Sustainable Development of Vietnam's Marine Economy until 2030 with a vision to 2045.”

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This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 920 (June 2019)

Ngo Hoai ChungDeputy Director General of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism