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Tourism is one of the critical sectors in the global economy, thus there is a need to develop comprehensive policies and plans to enhance sustainable tourism. From the economic perspective, it can be noted that tourism is one of the sectors that earn foreign exchange for most national economies.
What has been observed in the survey of global tourism is that a substantial number of countries in the world are working on modalities of developing efficient plans to come up with structures that can promote tourism and economic growth.
Vietnam is one of the countries in the world that have continuously worked on the means of developing plans to enhance tourism (Chon & Berger 2005). This paper is a report that presents an in-depth criticism of tourism planning and policy in Vietnam.
The paper is divided into a number of sections to provide a deeper critique of the main elements of policy and planning in the tourism policy. The first section of the paper presents an overview of the Vietnam’s tourism industry. The second section of the paper presents a historical overview of tourism and tourism policy in Vietnam.
The third section of the report presents a criticism of the aspects of supply and demand as incorporated in the development and enhancement of policy in Vietnam’s tourism sector. The fourth part of the report presents a criticism of how the critical elements of development like poverty alleviation are incorporated in the policy arena.
Overview of Tourism in Vietnam
According to Sieu (2012), tourism is among the leading industries in Vietnam. The statistics derived from the 2011 assessment and analysis of tourism performance in the country reveal growth in the industry. In the year 2011, the industry had a total arrival of 6.01 million tourists.
Besides the international tourists, the country also promotes domestic tourism, whose total numbers hit the 30 million mark. In the same year, the total receipts in terms of cash from the tourism industry stood at 6.2 million US dollars, which denoted a contribution of 5.8 percent to the GDP of the country (Visa n.d.).
The receipts from tourism in the county are linked to the promotion and growth of tourism attraction sites and strategies of managing tourism in the country.
This is, in turn, associated with the development and continued implementation of tourism policy, accompanied by comprehensive plans that are aimed at sustaining tourism as one of the key economic segments in Vietnam (Truong 2013).
Truong (2013) observed that one of the critical factors of tourism in the tourism sector is the availability of resources for tourism. An assessment of the tourism sector in Vietnam reveals the presence of numerous resources that act a basis on which tourism is implemented in the country. These resources can be categorized into several groups.
These include natural attractions, human resource, human attractions, the availability of financial resources, tourism infrastructure and tourism facilities. Natural attractions entail features like flora, fauna, ecosystem, beaches, parks, forests, lakes, rivers, and reserved areas, among others.
Human attractions entail arts, heritage, lifestyle, cuisine, and festivals, among others. On the other hand, human resources revolve around the quality of management, tourism-related education, and the quality of the system of tourism management in Vietnam.
Each of these resources is vital in the development of policy and plans for expansion and growth of the industry as one of the critical contributors to economic development in Vietnam (Sieu 2013).
A look at these resources reveals that the country is rich in most of the resources that promote tourism. Therefore, the crafting of clear policy goals is a fundamental recipe as far as the comprehensive combination and management of these resources to attain desirable economic outcomes in Vietnam is concerned.
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The combination is embedded in the policy goals and objectives. The objectives determine the level of suitability at which each resource is integrated with other resources to enhance not only the expansion of the industry, but also the ability of the country to generate more income from the industry (Ng 2008).
Historical overview of tourism planning and policy in Vietnam
It is of great essence to begin by noting that Vietnam is a developing country. Having come from a tumultuous political history, the country considers tourism as one of the key pillars of economic growth and development. The development of tourism in Vietnam is an exercise that has progressed for a relatively long time.
What is implied here is that a number of steps have been initiated as a way of enhancing the pace at which the tourism sector in the country develops over the years. According to Lloyd (2004), the development of tourism policy as far as Vietnam as a country is concerned is an issue that has been at the center of national policy development in the country.
Several factors relating to effective policy development have continuously come out all along the history of policy and policy development in Vietnam’s tourism sector. Among the issues that have come out in the history of Vietnam is the issue of regulation and whether it measures up to the economic expectations of the industry and the economy of Vietnam at large.
As one of the sectors that lie at the center of economic growth and development in Vietnam, the role of the government in creating a favorable policy environment cannot be overemphasized (Truong 2013).
The history of tourism planning and policy in Vietnam cannot be talked about without mentioning one of the historical antecedents in the country, which is the American War in the country and its impacts on the economic structures of the country (Laderman 2009).
While the development of tourism policy in tourism can be traced to the beginning of the last quarter of the 20th century, what needs to be mentioned is that the early stages of policy development in the tourism sector in the Vietnam served political objectives, rather than focusing on the economic objectives (Truong 2013).
Critiquing the policy objectives of tourism in Vietnam
A lot of emphasis has been paid to the establishment of a sound policy to guide the development of tourism in the country over the years as one of the main foundations of economic growth and development in Vietnam. As such, a Master Plan was developed at the national level to help in the development of tourism.
The plan was developed on a long-term basis up to 2020 to assist in establishing a wider network that will capture the domestic and international needs. The other objective of the Master Plan in the Vietnam’s tourism industry is to strengthen the management of tourism.
Strengthening the management of tourism is an elaborate task in the sense that it pays a lot of attention to the issues of ecology in tourism management. In other words, it can be argued that Vietnam develops the policies and plans in the tourism industry based on the developments that are taking place globally (Chon & Berger 2005).
Tourism is taken as one of the green-oriented industries in the world, thus the emphasis on the ecological accolades within the policy environment is an indicator of incorporating aspects of global management in policy development at the national level (Sieu 2012).
Sieu (2012) observes that the other objective that depicts the broad nature of the tourism policy and, perhaps, reiterates the importance of tourism to the economy of Vietnam is the promotion of social meetings and the organization of foreign resources that, in turn, enable the country to invest in the development of tourism.
The social and cultural aspects of tourism are critical contributors to the expansion of tourism in any country, besides being part of the tourist attraction. However, it depends on the broadness of the industry.
According to research, the tourism sector of Vietnam is quite wide, meaning that it does not only pay attention to wildlife, but it also revolves around other attractions that are embedded in the social and cultural aspects.
The country is rich in culture, which works side by side with the richness in natural resources. This promotes a strong local environment for tourism development (Sieu 2012).
According to Doan (2005), Vietnam has a long cultural history that attracts the entire world. The culture of the country can be traced back to 4000 years. What comes out here is that there is a need to diversify tourism as one way of enhancing the expansion of the tourism industry, as well as the avenue for promoting competitiveness in the industry at the national level relative to the competition that prevails in the global tourism industry.
According to Truong (2013), the incorporation of social aspects of the policy and plans in the tourism industry of Vietnam is one of the modalities of addressing other challenges like poverty through the promotion of certain attributes of tourism, like cultural tourism, apart from the dominant aspects of tourism like the tourism that focuses on nature and other ecological factors.
The policy seeks to enhance human resource infrastructure to promote the quality of management in the industry and improve the quality and quantity of delivery. This will promote competitiveness. The global tourism industry is quite competitive, which means that the attractiveness of the industry in any country requires the enhancement of the capacity of the country to attract more tourists.
Human capacity development, as brought out in the policy, means the establishment of proactive mechanisms within all the sub-sectors of development in the industry (Sieu 2012). The quality of management often contributes to the outcomes of management, especially in the service sector like the tourism industry where service quality is a key factor in promoting competitiveness.
The objective of human resource development goes hand in hand with the ability of the population to produce people who are skilled, contributing to the capacity to attain a workforce that is competitive enough to fill the gap of quality management.
Literacy levels in Vietnam are quite admirable, which is a sign of optimism as far as the implementation of the objective of human resource capacity development in the tourism sector of the country is concerned (Cali, Ellis & te Velder 2008).
Another policy goal as far as the development of tourism in Vietnam is concerned is the increased investment in the expansion of the tourism centers through ensuring that there is adequate financial support for all the expansion activities related to tourism.
This can be considered as one of the key objectives of tourism development in Vietnam that can ensure the country gets sustainable income from the industry, even when there is a high level of competition in the global tourism industry (Sieu 2012).
Challenges in tourism policy and planning in Vietnam
Doan (2005) acknowledged a rise in demand for tourism in Vietnam. According to the contemporary cumulative figures of tourists in the country, the rise in the number of tourists in the country is supported by the steady rise in the number of domestic tourists in the country following the implementation of strategies to promote domestic tourism.
However, several questions are raised about the ability of the country to maintain the desirable standards in the industry as a way of promoting international visitors in the country. International visitors are vital as far as the promotion of the balance of payments in the financial transactions at the national level is concerned.
Here, it is evident that the policy and plans in the tourism industry do not address the issue of income in the tourism industry in Vietnam sufficiently, especially when the industry is viewed from the lenses of economic growth and expansion at the national level.
Vietnam’s policy focuses on a blanket growth of the industry, instead of paying adequate attention to each aspect of tourism expansion because each of these aspects of tourism have an important role to play in the expansion and growth of the economy of the country (Ng 2008).
According to Ng (2008), the objective of tourism development in any country in the world is to promote an environment that supports tourism.
What comes out in the analysis of tourism policy in Vietnam is the lack of the development of policy goals that can aid in eliminating the influence of politics in the critical aspects of tourism development. There is no clear goal that outlines the role of politics in the advancement of tourism in the industry.
In a similar sense, the policy objectives and plans in the country seem to overlook most of the critical parameters of politics and their influence on the establishment of adequate support structures for tourism development in Vietnam.
If more economic goals have to be realized by Vietnam as far as the contribution of the tourism industry to economic development is concerned, then more attention has to be paid to the integration of the economic goals with the political goals of the country.
This way, it will become easy to eliminate the negative influence of politics on the development of a sustainable tourism industry in Vietnam (Ng 2008).
Diversity is one of the main factors that can be used to boost the level of competitiveness of the country in terms of tourism. Diversifying the tourism industry implies that Vietnam needs to be in possession of adequate financial resources to help in investing in different segments of the industry.
While Vietnam has put in place strategies within the tourism policy that are meant to help in promoting diverse tourism products, the country is still far much limited when looked at in comparative terms.
Policy and plans in the tourism industry of Vietnam require the incorporation of the mechanisms of mobilizing support and development of different tourism products to put the country in a better position to earn from different tourist products (Ng 2008).
The diversification of tourism products requires the expansion of the capacity of the country’s infrastructure. This brings out the issue of economic capacity as a factor in policy development and implementation in the tourism sector.
Still, there are a lot of setbacks related to the constraints in financing in the industry, resulting in inadequate financing of most of the strategies that are aligned to the policy goals that are embedded in the tourism policy (Chon & Berger 2005).
Thus, part of the improvements that are required to enhance the scope of the tourism policy in Vietnam is the incorporation of the objectives of raising financial resources and the subsequent strategies to execute the objectives.
According to UNESCO (2005), tourism policy in Vietnam is established upon the broader goal of alleviating poverty in the country. Given the level of poverty in Vietnam, it becomes quite daunting to craft the policy goals in such a way that they promote tourism development and alleviate poverty at the same time.
What needs to be done is for the country to focus on developing the tourism industry and let poverty reduction be a spillover effect of tourism development, especially by way of taking tourism development as an economic initiative.
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