By Nga Dao | September 20, 2021, 2.00pm
With an annual average growth rate of 22.7% during 2015-2019, Vietnam was one of the ten countries in the world with the fastest-growing tourism industry. In 2019, the nation recorded an all-time high of 18 million of foreign tourists, ranking fourth in the ASEAN region in terms of the number of international arrivals.
However, since 2020, when the first wave of COVID-19 hit the country, the tourism industry has been suffering devastating effects caused by the pandemic. It was estimated that Vietnam lost USD 23 billion in tourism revenue last year. This year, the industry’s revenue remained low, down by 51.8% to around 194 million with the number of international arrivals decreasing by 91.6% in the first half of the year. While the pandemic is still ongoing, the question is how the travel sector can survive and recover. It seems that the answer is in the digital transformation agenda.
Tourism was set to become a spearhead industry in Vietnam under a resolution adopted in 2017 by the ruling Communist Party. The same year, the Prime Minister issued Directive 16/CT-TTg which clearly states that tourism is one of the key sectors for digital transformation and priority will be given to the development of smart tourism. Following this direction, several localities have become pioneers in the application of IT and development of smart solutions for tourism. These include, for example, the establishment of a tourism portal with integrated data and multiple functions in multiple languages to guide and support tourists in the northeastern province of Quang Ninh- home to Ha Long Bay; the introduction of smart solutions such as the ‘Chatbot’ and ‘Danang FantastiCity’ apps in Da Nang, or the crafting of a 3D digital map on cultural heritages in Hue city which have brought up a great deal of excitement and convenience to travelers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further pushed digital transformation of tourism and is considered as a key solution to help this economic sector overcome the slump. Various policies and initiatives have been adopted or taken recently, opening new opportunities for the recovery and shaping of a digital future of the tourism industry.
In June 2020, the Prime Minister approved the national digital transformation program which sets the goal for Vietnam to become one of the 50 leading countries in information technology with a digital economy accounting for 20% of GDP by 2025. Later the same year, the Director General of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNTA) signed off the tourism sector’s Plan for proactive participation in the fourth Industrial Revolution, following the issuance of Decision 2574/QD-BVHTTDL by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST).
Under this plan, the VNTA will design and implement a project on digital tourism, firstly focusing on developing smart tourism in Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City and Hue, and a project to build up an integrated information management system for strategic and planning development purpose. It will also develop a system of digital data on Vietnam tourism; apply new technologies to improve the tourists’ experiences; upgrade digital communication channels; develop apps in service of online conferences; and develop platforms to connect information systems of the central government agencies with businesses and local authorities. In terms of infrastructure, the VNTA plans to deploy cloud computing and optimize regional systems for efficient use and exploitation of the existing ones while enhancing security and safety of information and databases.
Along with policy adoption, the VNTA has also implemented a series of new initiatives such as introducing “Vietnam Safe Travel” mobile app, developing a registration and safety assessment system (www.safe.tourism.com.vn) and a vaccination certification system (www.travelpass.tourism.vn), and launching a number of virtual tours.
Earlier this year, with support of Google, nearly 1,400 pictures showcasing wonders of Vietnam have been presented on Google Arts & Culture – an online platform which allows the public to view high-resolution images and videos of artworks and cultural artefacts throughout the world. This was the result of a project implemented by the MCST in collaboration with the Departments of Tourism of a number of provinces in the Central region. And, very recently in late August the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum officially rolled out a brand-new 3D tour in both Vietnamese and English, enabling the public to explore the Hanoi-based Museum remotely. The museum’s move was in line with the industry’s policy and also part of the MCST’s efforts to boost digital transformation of the tourism sector amid challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. From now to 2030, the MCST plans to complete three projects on the digitization of cultural heritage; building digital map, managing, and connecting databases on Vietnam’s cultural heritage; and digital transformation of libraries.
Boosting IT application and digital transformation is being proved as inevitable and a key solution for the tourism sector, thus helping it not only recover but also develop further.