Tourism in Vietnam

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A Periodisation of the Development of Vietnam’s Tourism Accommodation since the Open Door Policy

Wantanee Suntikul 1*, Richard Butler 2 and David Airey 3
1

School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

2

Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Strathclyde, UK 3

School of Management, University of Surrey, UK

This paper proposes that the development of the tourism accommodation sector in Vietnam, since the inauguration of the open door policy within the reform programme of doi moi, can be divided into five periods. This periodisation is based on a study and analysis of the evolving roles of accommodation providers in Vietnam tourism and the shifting patterns of state-owned enterprises, foreign direct investment and private businesses / SMEs in this sector. Each period, and each transition between consecutive periods, is investigated in terms of the dynamics of interrelations between public, private and foreign operators, and the interaction of the accommodation sector with other political, social and economic factors in Vietnam during this era of transition. The paper concludes by identifying factors and trends that best characterise the evolution of Vietnam’s tourism accommodation sector over the last two decades.

Key Words: Tourism accommodation, tourism development, doi moi, Vietnam tourism, open door policy

*

E-mail: wantanee@gmail.com

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Introduction

The doi moi or “Renovation” programme of political and economic reforms was introduced by the Vietnamese Congress in 1986. This policy decentralised aspects of governance and planning and streamlined the government bureaucracy. Reforms were enacted to promote the private sector as an economic driver, and to permit state and privately-owned industries to trade directly in foreign and international markets. Doi moi has been extremely successful in transforming Vietnam from a stagnant, unstable, centrally planned Soviet-style economy to a dynamic and quickly growing marketoriented economy grounded in a socialist society (Kokko, 1998, p. 2). Events such as the end of the US trade embargo on Vietnam in 1994 and Vietnam’s 1995 entry into ASEAN, as well as Vietnam’s admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the beginning of 2007, indicate an increasing re-integration of Vietnam into international capitalist markets. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have been involved in assisting Vietnam in developing a tourism policy and a tourism master plan to impose some organisation on this still-emerging market, as well as helping to draft the country’s first ever tourism law. Before the open door policy doi moi, the Vietnamese government had monopolised all tourism sectors. In 1987, one year after doi moi, the state issued the Law on Foreign Investment, which encouraged foreign direct investment in Vietnam, especially in the tourism industry. Parallel to the rush of foreign investment that followed, private enterprises also increased in number, leading to the end of the

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government monopoly in provision of tourism services, although the government still owns a large number of hotels. Under these new circumstances, state-owned enterprises have had to reinvent themselves for the first time to survive in an open market where competition is fierce. These political and economic changes have increased Vietnam’s accessibility and attractiveness in the international tourism market, causing tourists from around the world to rediscover Vietnam. Consequently, Vietnam’s tourism industry has experienced a period of meteoric growth in recent years. The number of foreign tourists visiting the country grew from 92,500 in 1988 to 3,583,486 in 2006 (Vietnam National Administration of Tourism [VNAT], 2007). According to UNDP/WTO, Vietnam’s tourism turnover in 1989 was about US$ 140 million, and direct employment in the...
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