Trương Hồng Nhung, 35, of Hà Nội, has just finished a trip to a foreign country with her family. Organising a trip had never been so easy for her. Making plans for the whole family with “so many people and so many preferences” used to be an onerous task since she had to manage everything from booking air tickets and accommodation at good prices to finding restaurants and amusement places.
“All I needed was a smart phone and then I could get all the information and services I needed,” Nhung said.
The development of information technology and the widespread use of smartphones have changed the face of Vietnamese tourism with companies using big data, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence (AI) to develop products and services. Everything can now be done online through websites and smartphone applications of service providers and tour operators.
Sitting at home, people can use “smart tourism” which brings them quick, easy and convenient services and every scrap of information they need about destinations in and outside the country at a click.
Vũ Quốc Trí, chief of office at the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism, said smart tourism is an inevitable trend and 60-70 per cent of tour operators in the country have developed their business online. Lecturer Nguyễn Thu Thuỷ from HCM City National University, agreed: “There are many ways to apply technology to develop tourism. It can be AI, big data or Internet of Things. “This is the best way to approach foreign visitors and advertise Vietnamese tourism.
“Things like AI and virtual reality are been being developed in Việt Nam to enable people to admire the beauty of Sơn Đoòng Cave or Chùa Cầu (Bridge Pagoda) in Hội An even if they cannot go to those places.”
In fact, smart tourism is attracting many customers, especially young people, thanks to a diverse range of services and options and promotions. Besides, online tourism service providers offer advice about destinations and tips to travel and how to buy cheap tickets.
While in the past one could not look beyond an agoda.com or Booking.com, now there are a myriad of options like Klook, KKday, PYS Travel, Gotadi.com, Skyscanner Vietnam, Traveloka.
Start-ups stream in
As a promising area of business, smart tourism has attracted investment from not only experienced companies but also start-ups. In recent years many Vietnamese and foreign start-ups have flocked to the market and many of them have called for big investments from giant investors.
Ecohost is another famous start-up in the sector. Founded in 2017, Ecohost seeks to connect Vietnamese and travellers who want to experience homestays in Việt Nam.
Bùi Thị Nhàn, founder of Ecohost, said: “Homestay standards in the country are not very good and locals are not able to develop services that meet international standards.” By setting up Ecohost she hoped to resolve the shortcomings plaguing many homestay services and develop a homestay community, she said. “We will organise training programmes for locals in serving customers. We also offer them consultancy for setting up tours and improve service quality.”
She also revealed that the company was developing a platform to help homestay service owners better manage and develop their business to meet modern demands. “It would digitise information about homestays so that they could be easily approached by customers,” she said. Ecohost’s business model makes sense since people living in rural and remote areas, where homestay services are mostly centred, are not very familiar with technology. “The company would help local people explore their tourism potential while offering travellers many new tourism products of international quality,” Nhàn said. Though her company is still new, she already has plans to expand.
While for companies the race is tough and long, there is no question travellers are benefitting.