Vietnam travel specialist Guilhem Cavaille from Asia DMC explains what makes Vietnam special and offers his thoughts and observations on what will keep it that way…
1) How has Vietnam changed over the past 10 years?
Cities have changed a lot with an increase in the number of cars and the emergence of many high-rise buildings and residential areas. The people in urban areas are much better off than they were before and this has affected the prices of everything. Ten years ago, a bowl of pho (traditional noodle soup) was 7,000 Vietnam dong; today it is about 40,000. Life has changed, but we still find plenty of remote and pristine spots.
2) Will travellers want to keep coming back? And if so why?
Sure, or at least they should – the potential of Vietnam is huge and under-exploited. When we talk about the destinations, there is always some pristine or less-travelled trail or village to explore. The coastline is over 3,000km long but only a few beach destinations exist so far, so there is room for many more. There is plenty of room for development and there will be a constant renewal of interest in the new destinations that emerge.
3) Will Vietnam ever experience the incredible repeat business of Thailand? What does it need to do to achieve this?
Obviously, there are many reasons to come back to Thailand, and beach and culture and scenery are some examples. Vietnam is an incredible country with its own culture and diversity. Consequently, I believe with its rich culture, picturesque scenery, diversified tradition from 54 ethnic groups as well as the contribution of professional travel companies like Asia DMC, Vietnam will become a hot destination for all new and returning travellers in the future.
4) Vietnam is exploding as a tourism destination with over 10 million arrivals in 2016. What challenges does it face as a result and what should the country be doing to grow sustainably while still continuing to attract arrivals?
The major challenge now is to face the diversity of travellers, including short-haul with domestic flights. Chinese and Indian tourists have different expectations from long-haul and historical tourists from the western markets. The development should be properly managed at a national governance level. There are improvements to make, mostly in nature conservation and infrastructures development. We would love to see the country embracing a long-term vision, building green and giving proper direction the local tourist industry. For now, they are focusing on more a short-term perspective and thinking about immediate profit without regard for the environment or local populations.
5) What are some of the secret destinations in Vietnam that are still unexplored and personal favourites of yours?
I would say Ngoc Son Ngo Luong nature reserve as a first. It was my last crush on a place, seven years ago as I was inspecting a very secluded valley with no road access and jungle all around. People are from the Muong ethnic group, very friendly, they live in a little piece of paradise made of lagoons, cascades and natural pools. The destination is very rarely travelled, and it is best left like this. We can keep it an exclusive for Asia DMC.
I love so many places here, but I would go for Cat Ba. Cat Ba is not unexplored, but compared to Halong it is much less visited. The island features a national park made up of lush jungle, a scenic hilly road, a typical island atmosphere and a bay, Lan Ha bay. Lan Ha offers pristine creaks, modest bungalows, and varied trekking and biking opportunities.
6) In one sentence, when did you come to Vietnam and what is it that you love about it the most?
I landed in Vietnam in early 2005 and what I love the most about it is the “epicurean-esque” lifestyle of its people.