On a cool autumn day in the “international crossroad” of Ta Hien street in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Danny and Rebecca, two tourists from England visiting Vietnam for the first time, were enjoying draught beer and fermented pork rolls. Having just arrived in Hanoi that morning, they were armed with a list of interesting activities they wished to experience in Vietnam.
Pointing to her smartphone, Rebecca said, “We want to try something so “Hanoi” and the smartphone has brought us to this place.”
Similarly many foreign tourists to Vietnam are using smart devices to book taxis, hotels and other services. They use online travel agencies (OTAs) and other applications on smart devices to set plans for their trip. The number of tourism using such devices is on an upward trend, and tourists are now likely to depend on technology during their trips.
According to the statistics of the market research company Nielsen, revenue from online tourism activities around the world was US$565 billion in 2016, an increase of 13.8% compared to last year. In Vietnam, 88% of tourists seek information via the internet and 35% of tourists regularly plan their trip based on information found on the internet, as reported by the market research company Q&Me. According to a representative of Google, the scale of online tourism in Southeast Asia is expected to increase from US$23 billion in 2015 to US$90 billion in 2025.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution with its outstanding progress of information technology has stimulated traditional tourism to transform into “smart tourism.”
Authorities in Vietnam now see MICE tourism as a future key driver of growth, with the potential to generate additional income, employment and foreign investment, while assisting market diversification, but until now there has been no exact definition of “smart tourism” to support the trend.
According to Nguyen Van Tuan, general director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), “smart tourism” can be simply understood as a kind of tourism that applies information technology to regular tourism activities.
“Previously, travel consumptions were mainly paid through travel agencies. With the support of technology, tourists can proactively search for information and arrange their trips, therefore freeing up more time for sightseeing and shopping. In addition, any problems can be solved quicker online,” Tuan said.
Applying technology to develop tourism has become popular in many countries. The birth of some ‘smart cities’ has strongly influenced the growth of many favour tourist attractions. For example, Bordeaux in France has supported Parking Easy – a start up on parking, to find locations for tourists’ packing by connecting roads with tourist attractions. France’s capital, Paris, offers tourists a convenient bus system, or in Santander, Spain, the application SmartSantanderRA enables tourists to enjoy views of the cities from past decades while watching the cameras showing current life on the beaches at the same time.
In Vietnam, VNAT is promoting e-marketing for the national tourism industry. Information about the history as well as images of tourist attractions will be displayed on the internet through websites or VNAT’s official fan pages on social networks.
Talking about the necessity of technology to tourism promotion, deputy minister of Science and Technology Pham Dai Duong said that the Vietnamese tourism industry has the potential to develop. However, to utilise these advantages, tourism enterprises should make appropriate changes in order to develop, and the competition of changing to develop can be considered a race for survival. Without evolving to keep up with new trends, enterprises are shutting the door leading to development.
Thus, many tourism enterprises in Vietnam have applied technology to their services. Since 2007, Phuc Group has implemented a wide range of e-marketing strategies including creating a website to advertise their services on the internet. At present, more than 60% interact with the enterprise’s staff via this website.
PYS Travel is deploying a customer management system, which saves all the information about marketing, sales and customer care. Every employee can access this system to understanding the interests and habits of PYS Travel’s customers. The system also helps enterprise leaders to update a tours’ status as well as customers’ interest in each attraction every month, thereby, having a detailed business plan.
However, as the technology foundation is being developed, the application of technology to tourism is only available for attractions in big cities in Vietnam. Attractive destinations in mountainous and remote areas are still quite new to major tourism, and the investment required to develop smart applications will be huge, meaning small tourism enterprises may not be able to afford them.
Nguyen Van My, general director of Lua Viet Tours Co. Ltd, said, “Tourists planning their trips themselves based on information found on the internet may become a new trend, but currently, many people still look for support from travel agencies. Cash is still the preferred payment method in Vietnam, so promoting the application of technology to tourism is limited and without comprehensive change, things will only be half-hearted.”