Some 5.3 million foreign visitors came to the country in the first 11 months of 2011, up 15.9 percent year-on-year, and meeting the country's tourism target, according to the General Statistics Office.

Of those coming to the country, 4.5 million arrived by plane, 20.8 percent up on last year. However, the number of visitors coming to the country by sea and road decreased by 30 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, to 32,000 and 833,000.

Of those coming to the country, 3.2 million came for a holiday – up 13 percent against the same period last year – 890,000 came to visit relatives, and 887,000 arrived for business purposes.

China topped the tables, with 1.2 million visitors coming to the country, up 49 percent on last year. Meanwhile, there were 473,000 visitors from the Republic of Korea , up 5.1 percent on 2010.

Visitors from Japan , the US , France , Cambodia , Australia and Malaysia also surged significantly.

HCM City was one of the most attractive destinations for foreign tourists. The city received nearly 3.1 million foreign visitors in the first 11 months, up 8.4 percent over the same period last year.

Despite early success in reaching the annual tourism target, deputy director of the National Administration of Tourism (NAT)'s Travel Department Pham Le Thao was concerned that the tourism sector would face difficulties next year due to the continuing global economic downturn.

She said that in December NAT will organise and take part in a series of events to advertise Vietnamese tourism, including the World Travel Market Fair in the UK , a Vietnamese food programme in Australia and a tourism promotional campaign throughout the central ASEAN region.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Ho Anh Tuan asked NAT and related departments to work on drawing tourists toward priority markets, improving accommodations facilities and devising methods to manage transport.

Tuan said that NAT also needs to cooperate with Vietnam Airlines, travel agents and cultural centres in foreign countries to promote Vietnamese tourism in international markets.

Other initiatives will include establishing a database on Vietnamese tourism, diversifying tourism information and services, intensifying market research and improving human resources, he said./.