After almost 50 years of establishment, ASEAN has been a successful regional organization whose aim is to boost economic growth, sociocultural evolution and politcal cooperation regionally and internationally. To fulfill these goals, ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), envisioning ASEAN as a single market, will be formed at the end of 2015. Vietnam is one of the countries that has been positively participated in ASEAN’s activities and proactively contributed to the preparation of AEC. Although Vietnam’s membership in ASEAN helps the country’s economy and fastens its integration into the world economy; it is undeniable that the integration of ACE brings both opportunities and challenges to Vietnam.
With the fortunately natural resources of 3,300km of coastline and beautiful beaches as well as the unique intangible cultural heritages, Vietnam has always been a popular destination for travellers and tourists around the world. The integration of AEC welcomes more visitors from ASEAN to Vietnam, as well as opening more potential markets for Vietnam tourism. However, the incoming regional competitiveness among ASEAN countries is so high that Vietnam tourism needs preparing for this new changes. This article mainly focuses on the opportunities and challenges Vietnam tourism sector faces in the upcoming AEC period, as well as what Vietnam have prepared for this occasion.
According to Foreign Investment Agency (Ministry of Planning and Investment), real estate is the field that ASEAN investors focus on in Vietnam market, even when the AEC has not taken effect yet. Statistics in the first half of 2015 shows that ASEAN investors invest 54.6 billions USD into several sectors in Vietnam, in which 30% (around 16.6 billions USD) is for real estate. Beside constructing office buildings in the big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, investors are now interested in building hotels, resorts and tourism sites in the central and southern provinces such as Da Nang and Phu Quoc, where are popularly known as tourism hotspots in Vietnam. This will make a significant contribution to the Vietnam tourism, improving the quality of facilities and infrastructures.
One of the key elements of AEC is the mutual recognition of professional qualifications within the member states. In tourism sector, the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) is one of the initiatives designed to empower the mobility of employment for qualified tourism labor in the intra-region. ASEAN is now in the final stage to apply MRA-TP in the early of 2016.
Human resource is one of the problems of Vietnam, especially in tourism. The shortage of labor in tourism sector, from hotel, restaurant, resort and travel agency manager to tour guide, waiter and seller, together with the lack of professionalism and expertise have created a bigger challenge for Vietnam. Moreover, the competitiveness from qualified labor in other ASEAN countries, who can easily come to Vietnam to work after the AEC takes effect, might make it hard for Vietnamese labor to compete with foreign competitors. Acknowledging this issue, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, along with the support from EU project issued the Vietnam Tourism Occupational Skills Standards – VTOS, implemented in vocational training institutions. It is necessary that Vietnamese labor should prepare linguistic skills, knowledge about ASEAN and ASEAN member countries and vocational skills based on ASEAN and international standards. Although the awareness about AEC among Vietnamese people is not high, there is a tendency that more and more young people have chosen tourism as their career. The issue of VTOS is helpful in this case and as time goes by, the standard of Vietnamese labor is sure to rise.
By Pham Hong Anh, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam