With its distinctive culture, beautiful natural landscapes and affordability, Vietnam has emerged as one of the top destinations for travellers from Singapore, Thailand, Australia and the Republic of Korea, according to the recent Visa Global Travel Intentions Survey.

The survey was discussed at a workshop on trends in international tourism to Vietnam, held in Hanoi on Jan. 12. Forecasts on the nation's tourism sector for the year ahead predict that 24 percent of inbound travellers to Vietnam will be from Singapore and Thailand (12 percent from each country), followed by Australian visitors accounting for 10 percent. The survey also highlighted a growing number of tourists from the RoK.

Natural scenery, good deals and promotions as well as political stability were cited as the key factors for visiting Vietnam over the next two years. While in Vietnam, future inbound travellers surveyed on their travel plans said they planned to enjoy outdoor activities, take food tours to explore the local cuisine and experience the local night life.

Lorijon Bacchi, Visa card's country manager for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, said that with tourism emerging as one of Vietnam's key economic drivers, the survey results came at an idea time to show where visitors to Vietnam would be coming from and what would motivate them in choosing destinations.

"Using data from the Visa Global Travel Intentions Survey 2011, the Vietnamese tourism industry can now identify opportunities to attract more tourists based specifically on inbound traveller preferences," said Bacchi.

The Visa Survey quizzed over 11,000 travellers across 23 countries about their travel plans and preferences over the coming years. Interestingly, a large number of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay a premium for food (64 percent), want to visit exotic destinations (65 percent) and experience the local culture (63 percent). Similarly, variety of food and dining options and lower travelling costs were also cited as key reasons for future inbound travel decisions. Bacchi said most inbound travellers to Vietnam had already travelled to popular Asian destination Hong Kong. Many had also already visited nearby Asian destinations such as mainland China and Malaysia.

Vietnam was likely to have mostly new visitors, who had not visited the country before. While variety of food offered was the key reason for past inbound travellers, future inbound travellers would revisit a place for its low travelling costs. Beautiful natural scenery attracted both past and future inbound travellers.

Hoang Thi Diep, vice chairperson of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said that thanks to the survey, the VNAT was able to gain useful resources and insights. Some of the findings on the most popular sources of information for future inbound travellers pointed to the importance of word-of-mouth recommendations, while information on hotel and tour booking websites also played an important role in fostering tourism. The VNAT and Visa also mentioned the possibility of cooperating and sharing regular information in a bid to further promote Vietnam among international tourists. /.