Tourism has emerged as an important instrument for sustainable development including poverty alleviation and employment generation apart from promoting social integration and international understanding. It is accorded a high development priority in Vietnam. The responsible use of natural resources, the potentials of the cultural heritage, the attractiveness of the overall product and international competitiveness are the factors which will decide on employment and prosperity.
Today’s travellers have a completely different motivation structure, as it was the case years ago. The search of an outstanding tourism experience, growing demands on the infrastructure and greater attention to soft factors, such as services, ambience, atmosphere and hospitality require continuous improvements of the local tourism product by service providers within the tourism value chain in the destination.
On the supply side, destinations are improving the quality of accommodations, infrastructures and services, and their marketing proficiency. Competition for the guest is in full swing, forcing destinations to become competitive units managed by a Destination Management Organization (DMO) aiming at developing framework conditions to manage tourism development and marketing within a well-functioning environment. To survive in a competitive environment that is heavily influenced by globalization trends, Vietnam must now present itself with innovative and diversified products, which are unique and lead to a quality-oriented positioning. Prerequisite for interesting products are intelligent marketing structures, both national and regional, to communicate the competitive advantages of the destinations.
Strategic destination marketing planning needed
In order to better serve the customers of the tourism sector in Vietnam and improve the strategic destination marketing planning, the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism and the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism have started a strategic planning initiative by establishing regional Destination Management Organisations. This initiative will play a central role of ESRT implementation activities in the months and years to come. The ESRT programme is supporting the collaboration of the provinces to jointly work on destination management issues at a regional cross-border level. One of the key principles of the strategy is strengthening partnerships between the public and private sector.
In taking a leadership role in destination brand development, destination marketing, market research and product development, the DMO will promote a high level of alignment between the public and private sectors through effective engagement and involvement. This will include establishing improved mechanisms for communication between tourism-related businesses, associations and the public sector; to work with industry groups and associations in working groups on a regular basis; to coordinate organisational structures / professional bodies and to develop efficient ways to share information within the industry.
A meeting has been conducted in Ha Giang City, April 2012, with the already established Tourism Working Group (TWG) of 8 Northern Highland Provinces, the tourism business community as well as with donor agencies and NGOs to look into ideas of destination management and to develop a target orientated road map for further tourism development activities in the region.
In a presentation given at the meeting, Mr Kai Partale introduced cases of multi-stakeholder destination management organisations followed by the concept of public-private-partnerships, presented by Mr Binh, Chairman of VISTA.
In principle the readiness for co-operation under one tourism roof with the stakeholders exists. However, still no organisational unit exists to manage all destination marketing management activities. The big chance became conscious to all participants to develop the destination by bundled forces not only to a competitive destination, but also a strong market positioning in the competition and to reach a growth of the arrivals and overnight accommodation stays.
However, there still remains a need to clarify the concept of destination management as it is a fairly new concept to Vietnam and to the cooperation area of 8 Northern Highland Provinces by addressing the following questions: What structure do we need in place for the cooperation? What are its roles and responsibilities? How can it be financed sustainably? How can we develop closer partnerships with business?
Finding solutions and the way forward for 8 northern highland provinces
The development of a DMO will release an extensive process of change, which must be supported and advanced both by the political side and by the tourism stakeholders. It will be necessary to communicate the together compiled consent for the tourism future of cross-border tourism cooperation in the political committees and to likewise cause a consent there. Implementing the concepts of a DMO depends on the ability to create a critical mass of professionals and leaders in support of destination development. This coordination will be institutionalized through the existing TWG that would adopt, oversee and organize the DMO implementation process supported by the EU programme in terms of capacity building, operational concepts and product development activities.
The next steps will be to unite the tourism participants and decision makers in rotating workshops and in selected working groups, e.g. on product development and/or organisation of public-private-partnerships for destination management. There, the necessary steps can be compiled for the change of the organisational structures and for a stronger consciousness-shaping for the marketing of the region. Condition of a successful development will however be that the tourism structures without compromises unite organisational professionally and a powerful tourism marketing organisation can be formed.
Prior to the establishment of this organisation, the TWG will take overall responsibility for monitoring and implementing the strategy with partner organisations. Within this transition phase international support shall assist to successfully carry out all actions needed for this new organisational structure for destination marketing purposes. On-going capacity building for the DMO will be essential for the foreseeable future to become effective in destination marketing management and funding streams must be ensured to support the development.
8 Northern Highland Provinces have the chance to present them in the future to the tourism community, as an attractively and diversified destination to be experienced by everyone personally and authentically with a professional destination management structure in place.
Kai Partale - Tourism Sector Coordinator/HRD Specialist