Why Thailand has attracted more foreign tourists than Vietnam
A friendly visa policy and diverse entertainment services have made Thailand more attractive than Vietnam in the eyes of foreign tourists.
Grant Wilson, 61, an Australian who has been living in Vietnam for six years, said he had traveled to Thailand more than 30 times.
Though Vietnam has beautiful scenery, delicious food and friendly people, Wilson said that Thailand has been developing tourism better than Vietnam, especially the quality of tourism services.
In Thailand, shopping centers and night markets are diverse and suitable for Westerners with better quality of goods.
In Thailand, there are various modes of public transport, including buses, taxis, tuk-tuks and songtaews, a taxi or bus adapted from a pick-up or a larger truck, which make it convenient for tourists to explore the country of golden pagodas. Meanwhile, in Vietnam Grant only knows to take xe om (motorbike taxis) or buses.
From Suvarnabhumi Airport, tourists can take a train for 35 baht ($1) to reach the downtown area in Bangkok. The Bangkok Skytrain (known as the BTS) and the Bangkok Subway (known as the MRT) are the two most convenient ways to travel around the Thai capital.
In Vietnam, traveling by public transport is still limited.
Though Vietnam’s first metro, the Cat Linh-Ha Dong line in Hanoi, went into service in 2021, it has failed to connect many of the city’s main tourist attractions. Ho Chi Minh City’s (HCMC) first metro line has not begun service yet due to repeated delays.
Grant said further that Vietnam has a poor nightlife scene while Thailand has built up its tourism reputation with “red light districts” in places like Pattaya and Bangkok.
“Vietnam has more beautiful natural landscapes than Thailand but conservation in Vietnam is underdeveloped,” Grant said. “In Thailand, you can go to national parks and easily see wild animals like tigers and elephants. In Vietnam, tigers are almost extinct and wild elephants can only be seen in some places like Yok Don in Dak Lak (in the Central Highlands).”
Leoni Becker, a German travel blogger who has been to both Vietnam and Thailand, also agreed Thailand has been attracting more foreign tourists than Vietnam thanks to its “diversified travel experiences” such as the “full moon party,” an all-night beach party that originated in Hat Rin on the island of Ko Pha-ngan in 1985.
Despite tourism reopening earlier in Vietnam, the country received only 3.5 million foreign visitors last year, almost a quarter of Thailand’s figure of 11.5 million.
In 2019, Vietnam received a record number of 18 million foreign tourists and earned $18.3 billion from international tourism, far below Thailand’s respective figures at 39.8 million arrivals and $60 billion in income.
Nguyen Tien Dat, CEO of Hanoi-based AZA Travel Co., said Vietnam is falling far behind its neighbor in developing tourism services and earning money from tourism.
Thailand’s popular resort paradises Phuket and Pattaya are full of entertainment shows and cultural performances to serve Western tourists every night.
Though Bangkok lacks long, sandy beaches like those in Vietnam’s Nha Trang, Da Nang or Phu Quoc, the capital boasts various nightlife hubs such as night markets and streets like Nana and Soi Cowboy, which are crowded from midnight until the early morning every day, Dat added.
In Hanoi, the walking street is only open on weekends and there are not many entertainment activities for foreigners while bars and dance clubs in backpacker streets like Bui Vien in HCMC or Ta Hien in Hanoi have to close at 2 a.m.
Tourism insiders said a friendly visa policy also makes Thailand a top choice of many Western tourists who prefer long-stay vacations.
Thailand currently offers visa exemptions for over 50 countries, including the United States and European countries, for stays of up to 45 days.
The Southeast Asia’s second largest economy last year launched its Long Term Residence Visa, which allows foreigners to stay in the country for up to 10 years with multiple entries.
Pham Hong Long, a tourism expert at Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said Thailand and Vietnam have many common geographical and cultural characteristics but the former’s approach to tourism has made a difference.
While many countries around the world still struggled with the pandemic crisis in 2021, Thailand was the first Southeast Asian country to reopen tourism with its “Phuket Tourism Sandbox project,” which eased quarantines and Covid restrictions for foreign tourists.
According to statistics given at the Vietnam Tourism Summit 2018, international visitors spend nine days on average while visiting Vietnam and Thailand. However, tourist spending per day in Thailand was $163 per person while the figure in Vietnam was only $96.
This year Vietnam targets 8 million foreign arrivals as the government starts seeking ways to revive its tourism industry while Thailand is eyeing 30 million international visitors.
By Tu Nguyen & Hoang Phong – VnExpress.net – February 24, 2023