Vietnam’s increasing appeal to Korean tourists


More Korean tourists are choosing Vietnam over Thailand, their favorite destination prior to the pandemic, said Agoda CEO Omri Morgenshtern.

In the first five months of this year, South Korea was the largest source market for tourists in Vietnam, with over 1.3 million arrivals, accounting for 30% of the total international visitors (4.6 million arrivals).

This figure represents a 73% equivalent of the same period in 2019. In 2022, Korean tourists also held the top position with about 770,000 arrivals out of 3.66 million international arrivals in Vietnam.

Morgenshtern attributes this surge to several factors. Firstly, the increasing number of Korean factories in Vietnam over the past two decades has improved Koreans' understanding of the country.

Additionally, Vietnam‘s visa-free policy for Korean tourists has made it an appealing destination, according to Vu Bich Hue, head of communications at the travel company Flamingo Redtours.

“More and more Korean businessmen and experts are investing and working in Vietnam. They indirectly become ambassadors promoting the tourism industry,” Hue said.

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of tourism company Vietravel, highlighted Vietnam‘s active promotion of tourism to Korean customers through various media channels. Popular reality TV shows in Korea often feature Vietnam, influencing Koreans to choose it as a travel destination.

For example, the TV program “Battle Trip” on KBS, one of the largest Korean TV stations, highlighted a trip to Da Nang City, making it one of the top 10 destinations among Korean audiences.

Ca sĩ người Hàn BoA tạo dáng trên sân golf ở Đà Nẵng. Ảnh: Instagram/BoA

Korean singer BoA (L) strikes a pose with a friend on a golf course in Da Nang. Photo courtesy of Instagram/BoA

Hoang said that Koreans can easily experience a Korean atmosphere in Vietnam, as many businesses have Korean signage and employ both Vietnamese managers and Koreans.

The 5-hour flight between the two countries adds to Vietnam’s appeal for Korean travelers. Daily flights from Busan to Da Nang have seen an 86% increase in flight capacity compared to the previous year.

Budget airlines offer affordable airfares, with one-way routes from Incheon to Tan Son Nhat in HCMC priced around VND2.9 million ($123). Even when flying with larger airlines, Koreans still consider paying double this ticket price reasonable.

“The affordability of hotel rooms, food, shopping, and various tourist activities is a significant advantage for Korean tourists,” Hoang said.

Previously, Korean tourists mainly visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City when first visiting Vietnam. However, the current trend shows that they are now going directly to Da Nang, Phu Quoc, or Nha Trang. These destinations provide popular attractions away from the busy cities, as mentioned by a senior official from Hanatour, Korea's leading travel agency.

Da Nang, often referred to as “Vietnam‘s most livable city,” attracts Koreans with its beaches, riverside walkways, street food, and resorts.

Hai diễn viên Park Hae Soo (trái) chụp lưu niệm cùng Go Soo trong chuyến tham quan phố cổ Hội An hồi tháng 5. Ảnh: Instagram

Actors Park Hae Soo (L) and Go Soo capture a moment during their visit to the ancient town of Hoi An in May 2023. Photo courtesy of Park Hae Soo Instagram

Phu Quoc is popular among Korean visitors for its diverse water sports and the chance to explore mountains. The island is also known for its seafood and fish sauce.

According to the Korea Herald, Nha Trang has become a beloved destination for young Koreans, offering cultural attractions to explore during the day and lively nightlife.

To accommodate Korean tourists, Hoang suggests that Vietnam should prioritize meeting their exacting standards in tourism. This entails training the hospitality workforce to cater to international guests, focusing on language proficiency, and maintaining targeted promotional campaigns for Korean visitors.

The tourism industry should broaden its offerings by developing several types of cultural, adventure, resort, and culinary tourism, along with unique and distinctive experiences, Hoang added.

Korean tourists mostly prefer independent travel or booking through Korean companies that have representatives in Vietnam. This poses a challenge for Vietnamese travel companies in attracting Korean tourists. When Korean customers do purchase tours within Vietnam, they tend to prefer smaller, day tours.

To tackle this issue, Hoang emphasized the importance of Vietnamese travel companies enhancing cooperation with their Korean counterparts to create attractive and convenient tour packages.

“Establishing a sustainable partnership and facilitating favorable conditions for promoting and marketing Vietnamese tourism in Korea are crucial steps we need to take,” Hoang said.

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