“ Vietnam -a favourite destination” was what Vietnamese travel agents highlighted at a meeting with French partners in Paris on December 14, offering a number of discount tours and new products.

The Deputy General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Nguyen Manh Cuong, presented a programme of action themed “Impressive Vietnam” launched by the State to help the non-smoke industry rebound.

The move focuses on administrative reforms such as visa pick-up at border-gates for tourists and visa exemption for overseas Vietnamese, said the senior travel official.

He also cited intensive investments in infrastructural facilities, improvement of service quality and product diversification.

The hospitality industry is struggling against the impact of the global economic meltdown, decreasing number of foreign arrivals by 12.3 percent year-on-year to 3.4 million so far this year.

French tourists, who ranked seventh in the number of foreign arrivals, were reduced by 3.7 percent year-on-year to almost 160,000 in the months to December.

Cuong, however, expressed optimism over the French market, the top-ten market in terms of visitors to Vietnam , citing numerous accords of cooperation as a springboard.

Vietnam and France reached an agreement in tourism in 1996. In 2005, a protocol between the VNAT and the French Department of Tourism was signed and most recently in last September a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on implementing the above-mentioned protocol was inked.

The MOU covers the exchange of information, assistance in personnel training and promotion campaigns for investment-tourism which call for favourable conditions for travel agents between the two countries to meet and discuss opportunities of investment.

Vietnamese Ambassador Le Kinh Tai highlighted major events next year such as the Hue Festival in June, the Thang Long-Hanoi millennium anniversary in October, and the French Week in Vietnam in November as attractions for foreign tourists, especially from France./.