In recent years, online tourism has been gradually replacing the activities of many stages in traditional tourism and has become an inevitable trend of the ‘smoke-free industry’ in Vietnam.
|The delegates talking at the 2019 Online Tourism Day
Currently, a series of technological platforms enables visitors interact in trip planning at every stage, from selection of destinations and making schedule to booking services and sharing their experience. Therefore, the trend of personalised tourism is increasingly popular, particularly among young tourists. According to the research results of Asia - Pacific Tourism Association and Oxford Economic in late 2018, in choosing destinations, 73% of visitors used online resources, 35% of which relied on comments posted by former tourists.
Through this result, it can be seen that a large number of Asians were inspired to travel by their friends’ comments and experience via social networks. These are the reasons why online tourism has been constantly expanding in recent years.
The e-commerce index report in 2019 showed that Vietnam’s e-commerce last year continued to develop comprehensively, with a growth rate of over 30% and a transaction scale of around US$8 billion, in which online retail sales and tourism accounted for the highest proportion. According to reports by Google and Temasek, Vietnam's online tourism volume reached US$3.5 billion in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 15%, and is expected to reach US$9 billion this year. Obviously, online tourism is an undeniable trend with the ability to bring strong growth opportunities for the entire tourism sector.
In recent years, many domestic information and technology (IT) enterprises have developed software to support tourism business and management activities. Several businesses have successfully applied online tools, improving business efficiency. In addition, the start-up movement in the tourism sector has strongly developed thanks to the latest IT achievements, especially gotadi.com, ivivu.com. tripi.vn, and vntrip.vn.
However, according to the experts, Vietnam’s online tourism sits only in the first phase of the shaping process. Despite many potentials for the development, the scale of the country’s tourism market stood fifth among six ranked countries in the Southeast Asia, following Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
Sharing about challenges for the development of online tourism in Vietnam, Ngo Minh Duc, President of gotadi.com, an online travel business specialising in providing hotel, air ticket and tour booking services, affirmed that technology and human resources are the biggest difficulties. There is lack of strong technological products in Vietnam, while IT human resources is focusing on doing outwork rather than building and creating products. In addition, the development of online tourism requires a large initial investment; meanwhile, most of the travel enterprises are of small and medium scale, so their economic potentials are not strong enough.
Domestic online tourism enterprises are also under pressure from foreign businesses that are operating in Vietnam, such as Agoda, Booking.com and TripAdvisor. According to the statistics from the Vietnam E-commerce Association (Vecom), foreign online tourism agents still hold more than 80% of the online booking market share in the country.
At the recent Online Tourism Day held jointly by the Vecom and Vietnam Tourism Association in Hanoi, experts and representatives from travel businesses proposed many measures to improve the competitiveness of Vietnam’s online tourism. According to Le Tuan Anh, director of the Tourism Information Centre under the General Department of Tourism, it is the most important to develop a full and synchronous data system on destinations, services, products and necessary information on Vietnamese tourism.
In fact, many localities and enterprises have actively built their own digital data warehouses, but they are still dispersed and lack uniformity. Therefore, the travel units should promote sharing and connectivity to contribute to developing a national data system, which will help Vietnamese enterprises improve their competitiveness compared to foreign businesses. The travel agencies and businesses should also pay special attention to ensuring the quality of their products.
A representative from the Vietnam Tourism Association said that it is crucial to overcome the lack of skills to deploy the digital platform and data management as well as develop policies to support the development of strong digital ecosystem. This system, including social media and mobile platforms, will boost opportunities for destinations, businesses and managers, creating the cooperation among relevant agencies for the sustainable development.