Kerry Newsome’s takeaway from last trip to Vietnam

ITS Vietnam Australia Representative Kerry Newsome tells us what she learned most from her recent visit to Vietnam

Although the words “same same” get used a lot in Vietnam. No visit to Vietnam has been that way for me. I am forever learning new insights into this fascinatingly beautiful country.

What I took away most from this last trip, is that Vietnam is now becoming a country for repeat visitors. Where before it was the country you went to once. Just to say you have been there, Vietnam is advancing its internal structures and transport options to open up exploration of other less touristy type places to give the visitor more to see and do.

It’s no longer a destination limited to the main cities: Hanoi, Hue, Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, HCMC, in a top to bottom tour. Vietnam is forever changing and developing a more tourism focused culture. This is good for our industry in one way, but bad in another as I experienced during my recent visit to places like Can Tho and Phu Quoc.

As these newer historically more adventure type locations open up, as in the case of Can Tho; discovering first hand that there are only about 150 families still trading as they would have done hundreds of years on the Mekong river was to say the least disappointing but understandable. You have this view in your mind from so many images you have seen of boats trading on the river in the early hours of the morning, only to find that there are now only a few, and some are only keeping it up for the tourist’s sake. It’s reality. It’s the ever-changing landscape of this emerging country’s development. In some ways it is witnessing the end of an era. Is it still worth going? Yes. But now there is more to see and do. Plus, if you love that real “be part of nature” kind of experience this place we checked out was truly a delight.

Mekong Rustic Homestay, Can Tho

Caves, grottos, small townships mostly inhabited my minority groups, and predominantly Vietnamese holiday escapes like Dalat, are now opening their doors to foreigners. The tourist map is expanding and the skylines are getting fuller with cranes and building developments to cope with this new demand. Foreign ownership is increasing and this is attracting new categories of traveller. I saw this clearly on the Island of Phu Quoc, and in Ba Na Hills Sunworld.

Phu Quoc has so much construction going on, you will do well to have any stay anywhere that is clear from the noise of a building site. It has some beautiful beaches and the sunsets and sunrises are to die for. It could be the new Bali for Australians in a very short amount of time. What makes it’s different and my stand out choice? The Vietnamese culture and people mostly. Their willingness to impress and win you over is paramount in the hospitality industry. Accommodation ranges from 3-5 star and you can get some great deals.

While Vietnam continues its evolution as a strong contender in the “best tourist hot spots”, you can expect a lot of noise in the marketing space and in social media. Australians are highly regarded tourists in Vietnam. I heard many a hotel Manager saying “we love Australian visitors, they are very courteous and well-behaved guests.” That was good to hear! From my experience, I think as travelers, Australian’s in the main are respectful. It’s sort of like that old saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, if that makes sense! That’s what they like most about us. Another nice thing to learn from my trip.
So, my last takeaway from this trip is that we need to “keep it real” when talking to our intending travelers. We need to keep our travelers abreast of the changes in new and developing areas to manage their expectations. We need to make sure the colorful imagery parading on the Internet, is what they experience when they get there!

We need to be the voice of realism so our customers can trust us and get the maximum value and enjoyment out of their holiday in Vietnam.