Ho Chi Minh City's Tourism Sector Making Big Changes

6:16:31 PM | 24/12/2007

With the role of being a key economic hub possessing many advantages for tourism development, Ho Chi Minh City’s tourism sector has tried its best to make remarkable changes in the global integration process, playing an important part in the city’s economic development. Here is an interview with Director of the municipal Tourism Department Dong Thi Kim Vui conducted by reporters from Vietnam Business Forum Magazine.
Has Vietnam’s entry to WTO made active changes in economic sectors, particularly the city’s tourism sector over the past time?
The country’s WTO membership has brought big opportunities for Ho Chi Minh City’s economic development, especially for its tourism industry. This is proved by more international visitors and investors to the city for entertainment and seeking business opportunities.
Regarding tourism promotion, Ho Chi Minh City has mobilized support from both diplomacy agencies and international organisations in the city and in foreign countries. Besides, the city has taken advantage of foreign airlines and newspapers to organize many Famtrip and Press trip delegations and also closely joined hands with concerned agencies to hold tourism events to lure leading foreign tourism firms. The Ho Chi Minh City International Tourism Festival 2007 is an outstanding example.
The city has paid much attention to administrative reform to create an open and equal business environment for tourism companies. Notably, the municipal Tourism Department has cooperated with the Department of Planning and Investment and 24 local districts to check and instruct tourism enterprises’ operations, aiming to timely detect and dealt with their violations.

Local tourism companies have showed their active role in the global integration process, making considerable contributions to the development of the city’s tourism sector by raising quality of their services and diversifying products to meet the society demand. Besides opening tours for common people, travel companies launch many high level tours to attract high income businesspeople and some big firms like Saigon Tourist, Fidi Tourist and Ben Thanh Tourist introduce tours for meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (MICE). The IT application, environment management and advanced technology are been used in tourism operations to raise enterprises’ management capacity, save energy, and protect environment. The majority of big travel agencies and three to five-star hotels have applied on-line promotion and advertisement of their products. Not only big tourist companies but also small and medium-sized ones further cooperate to boost service quality and competitiveness. Local travel firms also actively join hands with international big partner to take advantage of assistance and attract more visitors.
One of the difficulties is bad quality of local lodgments. Does the sector work out measures to improve the situation?
To meet the increasing travel demand, the city’s Tourism Department has submitted a hotel development plan until 2010 to the local People’s Committee mentioning urgent and long-term solutions.

In the short run, we will widely popularize the urgent need to develop luxury three to five-star hotels in the city from now between 2010 via many information channels to seek investment from all economic sectors including foreign investors.
Local authorities will encourage and create favorable conditions for investors to develop hotels as well as upgrade small hotels into three to five-star hotels. Currently, 19 hotels are needed to be expanded and upgraded, including 4 needed to be developed into five-star ones, three needed to be developed into four-star ones, and 12 needed to be developed into three-star ones. The city will encourage guest houses of central ministries and agencies to turn into hotel operations under the government’s Decision 317.
In the long run, under the tourism development plan until 2020, the city will prioritize the allocation of land lots to build four and five-star hotels, particularly at Phu My Hung in district 7 and Thu Thiem New Urban Area. The local Department of Planning and Investment has joined hands with the Tourism Department to introduce tourism development potentials for both local and foreign investors. The city is actively zoning locations to call on investors in tourism projects.
The city is also focusing on developing human resources in both hotel training courses and foreign languages in order to meet the demand of hi-end hotels.
Building a hotel management trademark in the city, raising the service quality and competitiveness are also paid much attention to.
With these efforts, the city aims to have additional 6,000 luxury hotel rooms by 2010, helping to ease the hotel room shortage.
Could you talk about the city’s tourism development plan in 2008?
Next year, the tourism sector will continue diversifying and developing products at its strength such shopping tours, culture and historical tours and eco-tours. Being a transit terminal between local and regional destinations is a good opportunity for the city to promote its tourism sector by organizing events such as Tourism Festival, Southern Fruits Festival, International Tourism Exhibition and International Food, holding and joining events in foreign countries.
This year, the number of international visitors to Ho Chi Minh City is expected to reach 2,650,000, up 12% on-year. The city’s tourism revenues are forecast at VND19.5 trillion, up 20% on-year. Among tourism services, MICE tours have shown a sharp increase.
The city has so far this year had 289 hotels of one to five-star with 13,533 rooms, 118 hotels and 2505 rooms higher than the same period of last year. Of those, five –star hotels account for 44 with 7,015 rooms.
Giang Tu- V.Le