The tourism and hospitality industries should shift their focus to the exceptional food and wine experiences from around the country to whet the global appetite for Vietnam as a top travel destination and entice more inbound visits.
“It is no secret that people travel for great food and wine experiences,” Chef Bobby Chinn, travel Vietnam Ambassador to Europe, told the China Spectator.
Food is the fastest way to promote the image of any country Chinn said, adding that incredible food and wine experiences are being served up every day throughout Vietnam.
Priority one should be a global campaign bringing together the real-life stories of travellers and sharing their stories through the creation of rich and compelling content that appeals to the tastes of international travellers.
Vietnam is struggling with a big perception problem and international travellers don’t usually think of Vietnam as a place to have the ultimate dining experience, but rather most think of it is a nation of simple bland rice dishes.
When international travellers think of fabulous food and wine experiences the first countries that pop into their minds are quite naturally – France, Italy and Latin American countries such as Mexico.
However, the picture of the nation’s culinary experience changes dramatically once travellers actually get a chance to travel through the nation and get a taste of the regional food and wine specialties.
There’s the Com tam (broken rice) and Goi Cuon (spring rolls) from Ho Chi Minh City, Pho (noodle soup) and Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) from Hanoi and Hue City’s Bun Bo (rice noodles with beef).
In addition, Travellers rave over My Quang (rice noodles with fried pork and special soup) from the central region and Banh Khot (coconut-turmeric shrimp pancakes) from the southern Vung Tau province.
It is not necessarily about building elegant five-star restaurants or trying to create elegant over the top expensive dining experiences— it is about the quality of the produce and the care taken to prepare it.
Along these lines, Ho Chi Minh City has had some limited success putting food front and centre as the face of its tourism and hospitality industries. Most notably its southern fruit festival and the Am Thuc Dat Phuong Nam Festival have gone over well.
However, more needs done as there are not a sufficient number of festivals and the whole campaign needs to be carefully crafted from the ground up in a well thought out, coordinated and cohesive manner.
Policies need to be put in place to ensure food and drink consistently meets the highest of hygienic and safety standards. Standard pricing mechanisms need to be developed to insure economy and consistency is maintained.
An elaborate and far-reaching campaign that echoes around the globe must be launched and Vietnam should actively take part in domestic and foreign events to advertise to international travellers.
The marketing body also needs to stay abreast of the continual changes and trends in the tourism and hospitality industries so as to position the nation for the tourism of tomorrow.
This most particularly translates into special treatment for today’s international traveller who demands an easier visa application process if a nation wants their business. They also want to be able to lodge their forms electronically and get quick responses.
The tourism industry needs to link to other professions said Nguyen Huu Tho, President of the Vietnam Tourism Association citing agriculture and seasonal fruit as a prime example.
“The majority of products travellers use during stays at hotels relates directly to agriculture— and hotels and restaurants could place fruits front and centre at high traffic venues to increase their brand awareness,” said Tho.