Will Vietnam Overtake Thailand As a Tourist Destination?
Over the past 8 years, Thailand has often been in the news, a great tourism destination but not without its problems. Politics has led to divisions between red pro-government and yellow shirt anti-government protestors. Violence is brewing again with elections just taking place at the beginning of February 2014. Unfortunately the elections don’t solve the political problem as they run deep dividing the rural farming communities and the city folks. So where is the crisis going? Nobody is quite sure but certainly Bangkok is now to be avoided as a tourist destination. That said Thailand received over 23 million visitors in 2013 with many visiting the mountains of the north and the stunning beaches along the Andaman Sea. This is over 3 times the 7 million tourists who flocked to Vietnam as part of tour packages to Vietnam, travelling independently or as part of a group tour packages for south east Asia. So what are the chances that the balance will shift and tourists will start visiting Vietnam over Thailand?
There are certainly a few things to consider. Firstly Thailand is a airport hub and there are direct flights to Bangkok from all over the world. This is certainly an advantage although Vietnam is opening up and over the last few years direct routes have been opened between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Europe and the US. In addition Vietnam visas are now not necessary for the beach resort of Phu Quoc. Visa letters are also available avoiding the need to apply for a Visa beforehand. Certainly Thailand still has the advantage here as a Visa is free and given on arrival for 30 days.
Vietnam has also grown over the last 10 years and now boasts many luxury hotels as well as exclusive beach resorts. This can also be combined with the mountains to the east and a range of climates from the cooler north to the tropical south. From a safety aspect Vietnam certainly is a safe country, but so is Thailand, not taking into account Bangkok.
One would expect taking in these short observations into consideration that tourism to Vietnam would increase at a faster rate than that of Thailand. I guess when people make a decision on whether to take tour packages to Vietnam or group tours to south east Asia whether to include Thailand would certainly be more of a concern now. Of course the situation could go either way in Thailand and it remains to be seen how a political solution can be found in the short term.