New Prospects for Vietnam-Saudi Arabia Tourism Cooperation

2:12:09 PM | 11/2/2023

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s visit to Saudi Arabia on October 19, 2023 has opened up many opportunities for strong cooperation between the two countries in the tourism industry. The two countries have significant potential for development and cooperation in this field, especially after the historic meeting between the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam and the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia.

Vietnamese Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung (L) and Saudi Arabia’s Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud, Deputy Minister of Tourism, sign an MoU on tourism cooperation in Riyadh, October 2023

Saudi Arabia has set a 2030 vision to reduce dependence on oil revenues and diversify its economy. An important part of this strategy is developing the tourism industry. Since 2019, Saudi Arabia has opened tourism through the implementation of tourist visas. This has led to a significant increase in profits from the tourism industry, reaching US$49.3 billion in 2021, and the total number of visitors, including both domestic and international visitors, has increased by more than 90 million arrivals.

Vietnam boasts a rich and diverse cultural heritage and numerous natural wonders that have earned UNESCO recognition, attracting a growing number of international tourists. After being severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for two years, the Vietnamese tourism sector is making remarkable strides toward recovery. Vietnam is among the first countries in the region to officially reopen after COVID-19 and welcomed nearly nine million international arrivals in the first nine months of 2023. Vietnam has also hosted many significant international events that have enhanced its global reputation. Furthermore, Vietnam has received many prestigious international tourism awards, such as “Asia’s Leading Destination”, “Asia’s Leading Culinary Destination”, and “Asia’s Leading Cultural Destination” at the World Travel Awards; “The most beautiful island in Asia” for Phu Quoc by Travel + Leisure magazine; “The world’s largest cave” for Son Doong (Quang Binh); “World Heritage Site” for Ha Long Bay by UNESCO; and many others for its stunning natural scenery and diverse ethnic cultures, such as Sapa in the northern mountainous region.

The Vietnamese Party and State have always prioritized the development of the tourism sector and have implemented various important strategies and policies to foster its growth, aiming to make tourism one of the key economic sectors. In February 2023, the Prime Minister of Vietnam issued a decision approving the Project “Strengthening international cooperation to build and develop Vietnam’s Halal industry until 2030”. This is the first project that outlines the major national directions to tap into the potential Halal market, with tourism being one of the priority fields and Saudi Arabia being one of the partners and markets. Most recently, the Vietnamese Government issued Resolution 127/NQ-CP dated August 14, 2023 on the application of electronic visas for citizens of all countries and territories entering Vietnam.

Vietnam and Saudi Arabia have much potential and opportunities for tourism cooperation based on their existing tourism resources. The agreement “Action Program in the field of tourism” signed between the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam and the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia has opened up new prospects for tourism collaboration between the two countries. Specifically, the two countries will learn from each other about the Halal tourism market, international standards and tourist preferences. This will help improve service quality and market understanding. Moreover, the two countries will cooperate in training tourism human resources to enhance the professionalism of the tourism sector. They will also organize tourism promotion events to showcase their destinations and tourism products. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia will support Vietnamese businesses and investors in finding investment opportunities in the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia.

Vietnam’s Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung suggested that Saudi Arabia assist Vietnam in understanding tourist tastes and the Halal market, developing standards and regulations on Halal tourism through technology transfer, introducing renowned Saudi brands to invest and operate in Vietnam in accommodation facilities and tourism investment. According to Minister Nguyen Van Hung, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is ready to act as a bridge to connect Saudi Arabian investors and businesses with investment portfolios in the tourism sector in Vietnamese localities; coordinate with relevant agencies to facilitate the organization of survey teams for Saudi Arabian businesses and investors at some famous and potential tourist attractions and landscapes in Vietnam.

Deputy Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud expressed her appreciation for the proposals of Minister Nguyen Van Hung and affirmed that Vietnam and Saudi Arabia share the same vision and commitment to take action to enhance tourism cooperation between the two countries. Currently, Saudi Arabia is considering issuing electronic visas for tourists from Vietnam, and in the near future, the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Tourism will collaborate with domestic travel agencies to research and develop product packages that suit the preferences of Vietnamese tourists. Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister also stated that with the aspiration to promote tourism exchanges with Vietnam via air in the near future, Saudi Arabia hopes to soon establish a direct flight between the two countries. Undoubtedly, the strong tourism cooperation between Vietnam and Saudi Arabia will create significant opportunities and development for both countries.

By Giang Tu, Vietnam Business Forum