Vietnam: Outlook for U.S. Travel & Tourism
Despite the being severely affected by the pandemic, the U.S. travel & tourism industry has shown signs of recovery with regards to the Vietnamese market.
With a population of more than 97 million people, Vietnam was the world’s 15th most populous nation in 2020. Its population is projected to reach 120 million by 2050.
Vietnam’s economy has been badly affected since the pandemic. However, recent statistic indicates that in 2020, Vietnam’s GDP growth rate was 2.9 percent. While other ASEAN countries’ GDP growth rates were mostly negative, Vietnam is one of the rare countries, in the region, that maintained a positive growth rate (Table 1).
Table 1 - ASEAN countries’ GDP Growth in 2020 (Source: World Bank)
GDP growth in 2020 (in percentage)
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam’s middle class is emerging and currently accounts for 13 percent of the population and is expected to reach 26 percent by 2026. The heightened growth rate of Vietnam’s middle class is one of many promising signs for the U.S. travel & tourism industry as the local population is willing to spend money on international travel.
Data on Vietnamese Visitors to the U.S.
Before COVID-19, the number of Vietnamese visitors to the U.S. grew yearly at an average rate of 8 percent. However, the pandemic hit global tourism hard, as Vietnamese visitors to the U.S. plunged 84 percent, compared to 2019 (Table 2).
Table 2 - Number of Vietnamese visitors to the U.S. from 2016 to 2020 (Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, ITA, National Travel and Tourism Office)
|Number of Vietnamese visitors to the U.S.||
The increasing number of Vietnamese visitors to the U.S. between 2016 and 2019 indicates that there is potentially a booming U.S. travel & tourism trend for the local population as the world gradually recovers from the pandemic.
Consumer Attitudes Toward Traveling
Vietnamese consumers are generally optimistic about the economy, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, Vietnamese are willing to travel and would like to spend more time on their vacation after being fully vaccinated. Thus, the U.S. travel & tourism should anticipate and prepare accordingly for Vietnamese travellers when the world’s doors reopen.
Resumption of International Flights
The Government of Vietnam has imposed tight border controls since the start of the pandemic. In November 2021, Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) publicly released (on its website in Vietnamese) its tentative four phase plan to resume both domestic and international flights. The Government of Vietnam and airlines are the entities who administer Vietnam’s quarantine and vaccination requirements.
Inaugural Direct Flight
On November 28, 2021, Vietnam Airlines will operate first ever direct passenger flight between Vietnam and the United States, departing Ho Chi Minh City and arriving in San Francisco. There will be a return flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Ho Chi Minh’s Tân Sơn Nhất Airport the following day. Vietnam Airlines has plans to make these flights regular, possibly biweekly, but all plans are subject to change.
Meanwhile, Vietnam Airlines’ local competitor Bamboo Airways has ambitious plans to also establish direct commercial flights between Vietnam and the United States.