HANOI (Vietnam/Asia News Network): As Vietnam begins to tentatively welcome international tourists back to its shores, an increased emphasis on golf tourism could provide a well-needed boost to the beleaguered tourism industry after nearly two years of Covid-19 restrictions.
While Vietnam has officially welcomed the first international tourists back, in phase one the overall guest experience will be limited. The question is; what can Vietnam do to attract more foreign tourists?
More importantly, how can they be convinced to spend more, thereby contributing to the tourism industry that has been so heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Golf tourism could be the answer. Vietnam has many advantages that could help raise golf tourism in the country to the next level, though it is a fledgling part of the Vietnamese tourist market.
Hà Văn Siêu, Vice Chairman of Vietnam's National Administration of Tourism, said that now the country decided to live with the pandemic, the tourism industry needs to find ways to open up and attract international visitors. Golf tourism has seen strong growth in recent years and Vietnam has always been considered one of the best golf destinations in Asia.
“Golf tourism around the world has grown into a market that brings high revenue, creating jobs and opportunities for destinations around the world, including Vietnam. This is a good opportunity for Vietnamese tourism to promote the image of an attractive and safe destination which is ready to welcome tourists back in the context of the new normal.”
Vietnam is considered to have some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. The great potential of golf tourism is clear to see and has been recognised by international tourists, according to Siêu.
Before the pandemic, those working in the tourism industry recognised the trend and took steps to prepare and invest in golf courses. In 2019, golf tourism made a great contribution to the overall success of Việt Nam's tourism.
“Golfing will attract classy and environmentally friendly guests in the post-pandemic period. We need to promote and ensure big investments into golf tourism because this will be considered a safe type of tourism that avoids large crowds,” he added.
Vietnam was named both Asia's and the World's Best Golf Destination 2021 at the eighth annual World Golf Awards held in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.
It is the second year that Vietnam has been honoured with the world title and the fifth consecutive year that the country has won the Asian title since 2017.
Despite the impact of Covid-19, a record amount of votes was collected this year.
The World Golf Awards celebrate and reward excellence in golf tourism through an annual awards programme, as part of the World Travel Awards.
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism was honoured as Asia's Leading Tourist Board 2021 at the 28th World Travel Awards, after receiving the title for the first time in 2017.
The WTA also honoured Vietnam as Asia’s Leading Sustainable Tourism Destination, and Hội An was named Asia’s Leading Cultural City Destination. Hạ Long Bay was awarded Asia’s Leading Tourist Attraction and Cúc Phương National Park as Asia’s Leading National Park.
These are great conditions for Vietnam to attract new development in golf tourism. In recent years, golf courses in Vietnam have been developed in association with high-class and luxurious resorts along coasts, ideal conditions for attracting tourists.
Out of the first 200 international visitors who came to Phú Quốc, 30 came just to play golf. This is a fairly high rate that proves the golf tourism trend of the foreign market.
“The demand of international visitors for golf tourism is undeniable. Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Japan have all focused on attracting this market.”
Thailand has built a brand and become a favourite destination for golfers from South Korea, Europe and America. Every year, the revenue of golf tourism in Thailand amounts to tens of billions of dollars, contributing to about 9 per cent of the country's GDP.
“We need to prepare a new mindset in the tourism sector to adapt safely and without fear. We believe that domestic and international tourism will reopen in the near future, with a safe route.
"People will be more confident in carrying out tourism activities. In the future, golf tourism in Vietnam will develop, contributing to bringing tourists to Vietnam and recovering the tourism industry after the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Nguyễn Văn Linh, Chairman of the Vietnam Golf Tourism Association, agrees that Vietnam has many advantages that should be exploited for the development of golf tourism, including a favourable geographical position, cultural and human potential, diversity of cuisine and potential for greater golf course infrastructure. Vietnam's golf courses have a modern design, with luxurious, high-class service infrastructures that follow international standards of quality.
“Compared to a few years ago, the number of golfers in Vietnam has increased sharply. With the current potential and demand, Vietnam needs to have a plan to develop these products and services, turning Vietnam into a bright spot in golf tourism around the world,” Linh said.
Vietnam is trying to attract this group of tourists, although the numbers are not currently that high. According to statistics from the VNAT, in 2018 of more than 15 million international visitors to Vietnam, less than one per cent played golf. Those that did were mainly guests from South Korea, Japan and other South-East Asian countries.
Phạm Duy Nghĩa, Director of Vietfoot Travel said: "Vietnam has 32 five-star international standard golf courses and 6,000 kilometres of coastline. We need to take the advantage to catch up with Thailand and Malaysia.
“However, I realise that Vietnam does not yet have policies to facilitate the development of professional golf. In addition, there are no units involved to open package tours for tourists from South Korea and Japan. Thailand and Malaysia have good package tours, thanks to the involvement of the government, hotel supply system, restaurant and travel agency."
Sharing his ideas, Đỗ Việt Hùng, Deputy General Director of FLC, said the management agency should consider and support businesses to create more favourable conditions for international visitors.
"We think Vietnam needs to license shorter golf tour packages of four days and three nights instead of the current seven days. In addition, we also need to adjust the price of golf tours competitively, compared with the general level of Southeast Asia," he said.
He also suggested redesigning the tours to attract international tourists. For example, the northeastern province of Quảng Ninh is currently one of five localities eligible to welcome international guests. The province has the advantage of having three golf courses and world-famous landmarks.
To retain international guests during their seven-day stay, Quảng Ninh could combine a golf tour and a cruise to visit the bay. This could be a solution to the problem of retaining international customers.
According to estimates from the Vietnam Golf Association, there are about 60 million people in the world who play golf. This is an attractive market for Vietnam. On the other hand, the number of golfers in Vietnam is low, at about 100,000 people, but this number is expected to increase.
The system of about 100 golf courses across the country has also been well invested. Quảng Ninh Province is one of the leading golf destinations in the country with an international-standard course system.