Staff training in the tourism sector is a long-term key task of the Vietnam Tourism Association, according to this organisation.

Nguyen Huu Tho, deputy chairman of the association, said on Dec. 29 one of the association's tasks in the 2012-16 period would be to improve training of the industry's employees.

The Government has invested time and money in developing the tourism industry.

In the next five years, the association plans to ask relevant authorities to establish a Tourism Knowledge Fostering School to train staff and managers in the tourism sector.

The association will also collaborate with universities and colleges to open short-term courses, and organise training classes for staff in local tourism associations.

The VITA's Viet Nam Society of Travel Agents (VISTA), in collaboration with the European Excellence in Management Education (CFVG) have launched the MBA Tourism Programme, which is especially targeted at managers working in the tourism industry. It is also open to anyone who is interested in a career in tourism.

The programme aims to improve the qualifications of managers of tourism enterprises, which are mostly small- and medium-sized, so they can compete better in the world market.

"The association will sign cooperation agreements with tourism associations in ASEAN countries to seek support in training and develop human resources for the tourism sector," Tho said.

In the 2012-16 period, VITA will strengthen tourism promotion. Every year, it will support members to take part in 10 to 15 international events or exhibitions to promote Vietnamese tourism products.

It aims to raise the status of Vietnamese tourism in the international market.

The association will continue to build a close relationship with airlines such as Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Airlines to promote Vietnamese tourism and popular tourism products in key markets.

The association will ask the Government and relevant ministries to develop particular tourism products in localities, especially in Hanoi and HCM City.

VITA targets ensuring that 80 percent of localities will set up local tourism associations by the end of 2016, in collaboration with VITA to support tourism businesses.

Currently, 31 cities and provinces have set up tourism associations with more than 1,000 members including enterprises, tour operators, travel agents and transport services.

Eighty percent of tourism company leaders would be professionally trained and 100 percent of tourism businesses would have their own websites in the 2012-16 period.

The association will continue to actively contribute opinions on tourism-related policies to help solve difficulties for businesses.

Hoang Tuan Anh, minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said there was a need to build a closer link between businesses, tourism associations and State management agencies to develop the country's tourism sector.

Despite hard economic times, the country welcomed more than 6 million international visitors and served 30 million domestic tourists, earning 130 trillion VND (6.25 billion USD) from tourism in 2011, an increase of 30 percent year-on-year./.