The event aims to contribute to more intensive implementation of sustainable and responsible policy measures in tourism development and operation.
It also aims to stimulate public-private dialogue in policy design and to spread the incentives for tourism development at the provincial and destination level.
The director of the Viet Nam National Tourism Administration (VNAT), Nguyen Van Tuan, said the sector had a 10 per cent growth in comparison with the same period last year, earning a total of VND165 trillion (US$7.9 billion).
"We are expecting that the industry will reach its target two years ahead with a record of 7.4 million foreign and 35 million domestic tourists arriving by the end of this year," Tuan said.
"However, the tourism industry still faces big challenges of competitiveness and sustainable growth" he said.
The conference was organised by the European Union-funded Environmentally and Socially Responsible Tourism Capacity Development Programme (ESRT), the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and VNAT.
The collaborative effort has drawn over 200 policy makers, tourism industry managers and professionals representing national and provincial organisations into discussions on how to ensure more intensive and efficient tourism development in Viet Nam.
Participants will discuss measures and instruments for responsible policy development, comparative practice implementation and experiences, internationally recognised labels for environmentally friendly tourism businesses, safe coasts, accessible resorts, energy saving hotels and tourist capacities.
Deputy Head of the EU to Viet Nam's co-operation and development section Bryan Fornari said tourism has become a key industry in Viet Nam with growing number of tourists.
Viet Nam has seen a sharp rise in tourism real estate investments during the economic downturn in spite of the otherwise stagnant property and construction market.
According to VNAT, over 4,300 new rooms have been opened in Ha Noi, Da Nang, Hue, Nha Trang, Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Nghe An over the past 10 months.
"According to our survey, a tourist in [northern] Quang Ninh province stays one night and spends only $30 a day, while a Russian tourist could pay $2,000 for their 20-day vacation in [central] Phan Thiet," he added.
"Hon Tre Island in [central] Nha Trang alone earned VND1.2 trillion ($57 million) – a third of total revenue of Quang Ninh province," he said.
He said good quality tourism services would draw investment into Viet Nam, but developing a responsible tourism policy is a huge challenge that needs involvement of ministries, agencies and local administrations.
He said that the industry also faces a tough competition from Thailand and Cambodia.
The VNAT's director, Tuan, said the country's tourism industry will focus on quality and branding rather than overheated growth which brought unstable and unbalanced development to local communities.
It also needs appropriate solutions on how to balance between growth and traditional culture; conservation as well as financial benefits for the community, agencies, ministries and businesses.
He blamed the chaos of hydro-power plant planning and coal-mining exploitation for destroying some destinations, and mentioned other issues affecting the overall industry.
"Negative images of street vendors, overstating the price of services in some places have damaged the tourism industry here.
"Shortages of skilled workers in hospitality and high-quality service also drawback the development of tourism industry," he said.
"We should keep an eye on how to improve the quality service and the brand name of destinations rather than hosting record number of tourists."
The central Quang Nam province is home of two UNESCO-recognised world heritage sites.
Here, My Son Sanctuary, and Hoi An City with world biosphere reserve Cham Islands, have been successful in promoting sustainable tourism.
The unique cultural relics found in the 2,000-year-old Cham monuments and its associated cultural festivals, folk songs and games, cuisine and food are another draw card in the area.
A survey showed that 27 per cent of international tourists come to explore the culture and history of the heritage in the province.
Industry growth in the province rose by 40 per cent during 2006-11, with arrivals to Quang Nam totalling 2.8 million last year. — VNS
Photo: Viet Nam's tourism industry hosted 6.9 million foreign and 32.5 million domestic tourists in the first 10 months of the year.— Photo binhdinh