An estimated 617,895 international arrivals were recorded in Vietnam in March, down 10.4 percent from February and 12.9 percent from the same period last year, marking the 10th consecutive month of decline, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).

The number for the first three months of the year was just over 2 million, a yearly drop of 13.7 percent. Of the figure, international arrivals from Asia- the largest market of the country’s sector - reached 1.27 million, a 14.1 percent annual decrease.

Statistics from the VNAT attributed the fall to a sharp drop in the number of travellers from three of the largest tourist markets, China, Russia and the European Union, over the past ten months, decreasing 40 percent, 27.1 percent and 11.1 percent respectively.

According to General Director of Viet Tour Company Tran Van Long, neighbouring countries have introduced attractive packages to draw international tourists, compounded by insufficient investment in the sector in Vietnam.

He also noted tourism is not considered a key industry in the country, rather more of a secondary economy.

Representatives from tourism companies pointed to ineffective management, complicated visa procedures, high prices and lack of skilled manpower as hindering Vietnam’s image to international tourists.

They also highlighted that investment to propagate the industry is below that of other countries in the region and world.

In order to prevent further decreases in the number of international arrivals to Vietnam, authorised bodies and tourism companies should implement measures and programmes to stimulate the market.

Ministries, trades and localities should cooperate closely in an attempt to improve service quality and manpower capacity, Long added.

Unskilled and unprofessional tour guides have negatively affected the country’s industry, likely to be a challenge when the ASEAN Community is officially formed by the end of 2015, enabling workers, including tourism labourers, to move freely.

In late 2014, the Prime Minister issued resolution 92/2014/NQ-CP on measures to bolster Vietnam’s tourism. The resolution was hoped to lay a foundation for the industry to make a breakthrough in the time ahead.-VNA