The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vietnam Tourism Numbers Inflated by 40% Year on Year

Everyone living in Vietnam assumed it. Government tourism statistics just didn't match reality. Claims of huge influxes of tourists were common, yet tourist venues remained only moderately busy at best. We all figured the government was lumping in ALL foreign arrivals whenever state-controlled media gave us the 'tourism' arrival statistics. It turns out we are right. Below is a subset of data from the Vietnam government's General Statistics Office. The total numbers reported by the Vietnam press end up being inflated by an average of 40% because they include business, family visits and other (presumably diplomats, students, etc). The government only gave us the grand totals when they announced the latest 'foreign tourist arrivals' before, but never broke it down for us--they never told the truth.


Year
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010







TOTAL (thousands)
3477.5    
3583.5
4229.3
4235.8
3747.4
5049.9





Tourism
2038.5
2068.9     
2605.7
2612.9
2240.9
3110.4
Business
495.6        
575.8
673.8       
844.3       
742.1       
1023.6
Visiting friend & relative      
508.2
560.9
601.0
510.5
517.8
574.1
Others
435.2
377.9
348.8
268.1
246.6
341.7


While I don't have the precise breakdown for 2011, we know the government claimed there was a total of about 6 million foreign tourist arrivals to Vietnam last year. If the figures were inflated at the same rate as previous years, that means there may have really only been about 3.6 million foreign tourists.

This doesn't necessarily change the fact that a certain number of foreigners actually arrived in Vietnam (unless the actual data has been tampered with, which happens a lot in Vietnam), but here's the real problem: Businessmen, students, diplomats and other assorted non-tourist visitors neither spend their money in the same way, nor the same amounts as do tourists. A visiting student in Saigon may never take a cruise in Halong Bay. A businessman in Hanoi for the week may never take the train for a weekend in Sapa. Neither will behave like a tourist, and both might just stay where they are and spend very little money. Dishonestly about tourist statistics by the government leads to a lot of adverse, complicated, and far-reaching effects for business planning, marketing and management in the tourism industry.

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