With Vietnam appointing a foreigner as its tourism ambassador for the first time on Monday, industry insiders have warned that this is not a ‘magic wand’ to lure more international visitors to the country.
Local travel firms welcomed the idea of having U.S. filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director of the Hollywood movie ‘Kong: Skull Island’ now in theaters worldwide, as an ambassador, but said the tourist industry should not count on this man alone.
What is more important to Vietnam is to improve its tourism environment, traffic infrastructure and travel products, insiders said as Vogt-Roberts received the official appointment from the Vietnamese minister of tourism, Nguyen Ngoc Thien, in Hanoi on Monday.
His movie, 70 percent of which was shot in Vietnam, has had the biggest opening weekend of the year so far in the Southeast Asian country, grossing US$2.2 million following the March 10 premiere, which was marred by a fire.
Speaking at the title bestowing ceremony, the U.S. director said that being a tourism ambassador of Vietnam is the biggest honor he has ever had, pledging to continue introducing the country’s beauty to the world.
He expressed his hope that he would be able to persuade more filmmakers and actors to film in Vietnam and let the world know about Vietnam’s natural attractions.
The newly appointed tourism ambassador may well succeed in his effort to woo more international visitors to Vietnam, but what is more important is to prove to those holidaymakers that the country is worth their visit, according to local travel companies.
Don’t expect the ambassador to do it all
Nguyen Quoc Ky, CEO of Vietravel, said Vietnam should not expect the ambassador to shoulder the responsibility of promoting Vietnamese tourism on his own.
“We tend to expect that the ambassador will do this and this for us, but don’t forget he still has his own business and is not able to do everything for us all the time,” Ky told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
The Vietravel executive said Vietnam should instead look to other countries to learn from their experience in promoting film-themed tourism.
“For example, we should study which markets would be mesmerized by the Vietnamese beauty as depicted in the Kong picture and try to attract tourists from those countries,” he said.
“Don’t just stand there and expect that anyone who watches the movie to come to Vietnam.”
Tran Duc Quynh, deputy general manager of the resort chain Furama, said a surge of tourists to Vietnam as a result of the ‘Kong effect’ is in fact a double-edge sword for the country.
With problems like double pricing, rip-offs and poor tourism products remaining, visitors will surely be disappointed once they really come to Vietnam, Quynh told Tuoi Tre.
Quynh’s ideas were backed by Ngo Minh Duc, a member of Vietnam’s national tourism consultant committee, who said the real problem with the tourism industry is the low rate of return.
“Choosing a famous Hollywood director as the tourism ambassador is a boost for the industry, but we will never be able to improve the return rate if international holidaymakers still have to suffer pollution, robbery, traffic jams and visa rigmaroles,” Duc said.
Finally, Nguyen Chau A, director of Oxalis, the sole tour operator at Son Doong Cave in central Vietnam, put the emphasis on good cooperation between the tourist industry and the ambassador.
“Jordan Vogt-Roberts may produce great videos showcasing Vietnam’s landscapes, but the tourist industry should join hands in helping to decide when, where and how these videos should be aired,” A said.
“We should not expect the tourism ambassador to do everything.”