Direct flights between India and Vietnam to boost economic ties

Far away from its war-ravaged image, Vietnam is today considered to be a rising economic power in Asia. And the country has made quite a splash in the field of tourism as well with reported arrivals of nearly 8 million last year (China contributing one-fourth of it). But despite growing strategic interests between India and Vietnam which includes trade exchanges, the Indian footfall is still quite low. In a conversation with TourismFirst, the chairman of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Nguyen Van Tuan pointed out the bottlenecks which are holding back the tourism exchange between the two countries. Tuan had visited Delhi recently to participate in a roadshow. Here are the edited excerpts from the conversation:

I am sure you would be disappointed with the Indian arrival numbers in Vietnam – just 50,000 last year. This despite the growing economic relations and both countries recognizing each other as strategic partners on many fronts.

SONY DSCI think, there are reasons to be hopeful that tourism co-operation between the two countries will improve in the coming years. But if you look at the present situation, I reckon there are two clear bottlenecks. Firstly, there is absence of direct flight. I am hopeful that once direct flight becomes a reality, we will see a major change in the Indian arrivals. The second point pertains to information. The discerning Indian tourists by and large lack information on what we precisely offer them. But the same also holds true of information about Indian tourism attractions to Vietnamese tourists. So clearly we have to improve connectivity and we have to do a lot on information sharing front. These issues have to be resolved.

What kind of incremental value you expect to witness if direct connectivity becomes a reality? As a tourism board, are you pushing for it?

Direct connectivity will not only help us but Indian tourism also. Your Buddhist centers could be a major attraction for Vietnamese tourists as well. However, presently there is only one flight run by Jet Airways connecting the two countries and that too has a transit point at Bangkok. The increase in tourist numbers will bring benefits to the airlines. From our side, we are in constant touch with our airlines to open the direct flight to India. Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air are our two major carriers and we expect they will also start direct operations like Jet Airways. They have indicating their interest in doing so.

Is there any deadline you can indicate in terms of your carriers starting direct services to India? Your Vietnam Airlines has quite an expansion plan in next three-four years.

The deadline will be set by the airlines. As tourism authority, we are encouraging them to do so.

Lack of awareness, as you pointed out, is a key bottleneck. How do you intend to counter that?

For us, India has become a very important market. So we are definitely going to scale up our promotional drive here. With a population of over a billion, a 300 million plus strong middle class, and traditionally strong relationship between the two countries, there is no reason why India can’t become a major source market for Vietnam. I am confident that as Indian tourists get more exposed to our products, they will find Vietnam a very attractive destination. The world still remembers the images of Vietnam war but let me tell you, all that is history. The country has undergone tremendous transformation in the last two decades. You have to be there to believe it.

Are you looking at any specific percentage increase in tourist arrivals in 2015 and in the years ahead?

Its difficult to predict a definitive number but I am confident that the growth in arrival numbers will be robust. It could even be the case of high double-digit trajectory growth going ahead. We do not consider an arrival number of 100,000 from India too high even in the near future. We have already enhanced our promotional drive in the leading Indian destinations by recently organizing road shows in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. And there will be more such shows in other destinations in the near to medium run. We are also expecting a delegation from Bollywood to visit us soon to examine our locations where they can execute their future ventures. We are very keen to showcase our Ha Long Bay – a world heritage site which is simply incomparable.

By Ritwik Sinha

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