Slated only to grow, influential Indian companies, private and public, were driving sizable investments into Vietnam, triggering a notable movement of people and demand for a skilled workforce, said Excellency Pham Sanh Chau, Ambassador of Vietnam to India. He expressed astonishment at lowly inbound numbers into India, given its potential, resources and robust air networks, and suggested focussing on augmenting basic infrastructure, besides addressing the evident disparity in the service of hotels and the surrounding environment. He made these remarks in an exclusive tete-a-tete on the sidelines of a mega roadshow organised recently by Vietnam Tourism Board and VFS Global in the capital that brought together several top Vietnamese and Indian travel agencies and operators selling the Southeast Asian destination. Extracts from the interview and a report on the event’s proceedings: 

A large delegation of travel agents and operators from Vietnam were in attendance. The hugely successful roadshow saw a very good participation from the Indian travel trade fraternity and media personnel.

Ambassador Chau forecasted a “dramatic rise” in the movement of people between two countries, noting that the Indian outbound needed new destinations and Vietnam was a perfect fit for the outbound. “We have a very good destination and there are more and more Vietnamese going to India and vice versa,” he said, indicating that the demand for untapped destinations was positioning Vietnam favourably. He further added that there was “a direct air linkage between two countries,” referring to recent developments involving VietJet and IndiGo commencing direct flights between key gateways of two countries. “More importantly, we do a lot of roadshows, such as this one here in Delhi. Thanks to the roadshow we are connecting more than 220 Indian and Vietnamese travel agencies and operators. This is one of the biggest roadshows organised by the embassy since I have assumed my role as the ambassador here in New Delhi,” he said, stressing on how these concerted outreach programs were enhancing visibility. 

Sharing an overview of commercial ties and its impact in boosting people-to-people movement, he said that considerable investments were going into Vietnam from India. “DHL is going to make a huge investment to create 10000 jobs in Vietnam in the IT sector. We also have several other companies such as Continental Coffee – the biggest coffee producers in India –that have plans for Vietnam. They are going to expand their operations. I also want to mention about the huge investment currently underway by ONGC and ESSAR and I am not talking about solar and renewable energy. I foresee a tendency among more number of Indian companies and workers moving to Vietnam for work,” he said. He told us that several Indian companies had highlighted the need for having more skilled Indian workers in Vietnam. “It is, perhaps, because the demand for a skilled workforce is very high in Vietnam and there is a shortage of skilled labour. More so, in context of the trade war between the United States and China, US companies which would shift base from China want to open their businesses in Vietnam,” he said, reflecting on the trend. 

The learning curve for India from Vietnam’s success story

Vietnam has been one of the most successful models of tourism. It has retained its earthy charm and yet offers the best of both worlds. Tourism is a significant contributor to its national coffers and employment. When asked how India could emulate some of its strategies, he noted that India had a huge potential for developing tourism and he was “surprised to hear that it received only ten million international tourists.” “The potential is hugely untapped here. Vietnam is a little bit more advanced on that front and received 15.5 million foreign tourists in 2018. I can share that India has much more resources than what we do and also very good connectivity. The issue is of developing more of basic infrastructure and also the quality of the service. The hotel and related service are good but it is still not desired, as an average,” he reasoned.  

He insisted that the environment was important as tourism was cumulative of all factors, and not just beautiful hotels, warmth in hospitality and good quality service. “Of course, Indian people are warm and friendly but the surrounding environment is yet to improve. The environment in the surrounding area is very much in contrast to that of the hotel itself. This is one of the issues that I learnt from Vietnamese visitors who came to India,” the top envoy said. 

Earlier in the day, around ten major Vietnamese travel agencies and tour operators made detailed presentations on their offerings to a packed hall of Indian agents, media and members of several industry associations. A raffle draw was organised too and many lucky winners were handed lavish vouchers, courtesy Vietnamese agencies, IndiGo and VietJet. Addressing the gathering, the ambassador made mention of PM Modi’s Act East Policy and Vietnam’s significance therein. He said that both nations shared a traditional and long-standing relationship and evoked centuries-old spiritual ties. He expressed confidence in the future of tourism, sharing that the global demand for tourism was outpacing global GDP growth. With a rich cultural and natural heritage, Vietnam was well-poised to benefit from the global trend, he iterated.