‘Vietnam Now, Future Now, Connectivity Now’ was the vibrant central theme of a day two keynote address by Phillip Nguyen on day two of The Trinity Forum, in which the Imex Pan Pacific Group (IPPG) Vice President and IPP Travel Retail CEO outlined the travel & tourism opportunity.
“It has been a whirlwind reopening for our industry in Vietnam. No doubt, COVID has shaped how we think about the future. But I know the resilience of the Vietnamese nation,” said Nguyen in one of The Trinity Forum’s best-received sessions. “COVID was about humanity and we have become closer as a nation. We trusted the government to lead, which they did well. We survived as a nation and now are moving forward together.”
Phillip Nguyễn: The rise of the Vietnamese middle class and upper middle class presents a huge opportunity
He said Vietnam is looking at travel as a wider national opportunity, with IPPG a key player.
“Together we can make big changes in the world of aviation. Our culture is changing, communities are open and we are vibrant and catering to every market. Currently we don’t have the Chinese and we are trying to understand what more we can do to welcome Australians, Indians, Indonesians as well as serving Vietnamese in and outbound. But why Vietnam? Why is it an attractive investment or place to visit? Take a look at some of the numbers.”
He noted that Vietnam’s GDP growth is expected to bounce back and grow at +6.5% annually from 2022 onwards. Partly this is explained by the surging growth of the middle class and upper middle class happening today in Vietnam.
“That will sustain our strong growth rate for years,” said Nguyen. “And this is a growing base for luxury spend, especially in Ho Chi Minh City today.
“Also it points to an area of opportunity, namely outbound Vietnamese, not just inbound tourism to Vietnam. Many airports in this region are seeing tour groups but also affluent spenders.
“Beyond this, look at Vietnam’s connectivity and especially its manufacturing clusters, to the north with China, to the south with Thailand and Cambodia. With our land borders as wide as they are, we can see the opportunity where that manufacturing base also drives tourism. Also we have seen a lot of foreign direct investment (FDI) moving from China to Vietnam due to the restrictions in the supply chain from China. Much of this is in planning and construction, so the wave of people and companies is still to come.”
We want to create an that ‘omnichannel of travel’, said Phillip Nguyen in an engaging, enlightening session
The country’s network of 22 airports (ten international, 12 domestic) will grow by four by 2030, underlining Vietnam’s positioning as an Asia Pacific hub.
Nguyen outlined the role of the major airports in the state, which include Da Nang International, Noi Bai International, Cam Ranh International, Phu Quoc, Tan Son Nhat International and Longh Thanh International (expected to open by 2025).
“We look at all of our connectivity, by air, sea, land and rail, and you can see how well connected we are. Our connectivity starts with aviation. We have been a travel retailer and are transitioning now to become airport operators and logistics providers, always representing Vietnam.
“But we have yet to become a transfer hub like a Singapore or a Dubai or a Schiphol. That is our goal, working with the government, to be able to cater to the customer in a new way. We want to create that ‘omnichannel of travel’.”
“We’re targeting the 100 million Vietnamese to engage with the opportunity for a tax free and duty free destination”
Homing in on some of the airport opportunities, Nguyen noted that at Cam Ranh International Airport – in which IPP Group is a shareholder – the pre-COVID passenger profile was 70% Chinese. “We’ve been promoting Vietnam as a destination to change this mix,” Nguyen said. “Our airports are world-class, and we believe the future for this destination is towards entertainment and lifestyle.”
He also discussed the potential of other locations such as Phu Quoc Airport, where a new Terminal 2 will push forward next year with operations to begin by 2025.
One of the most exciting projects is Longh Thanh International Airport, a new airport in the south with a 25 million passenger capacity. “This will be a focal point for driving Vietnam’s economy and for reenergising tourism. This airport will be a key player in the Asia Pacific region,” said Nguyen.
With the new airports, commercial activities are front and centre, he said. “You need space as a traveller. Space and choice. Design is a new philosophy in Vietnam. We have heritage but in term of airport infrastructure we are understanding how to service the growing demand from domestic and international customers. We work closely with the airports corporation to instil best practice. And from our partners we want to understand what we need to do not just today, but also tomorrow. The potential is huge. You see so many trends coming out of Vietnam today.”
On the potential for Vietnam to develop a Hainan-style duty free haven in Southeast Asia, Nguyen said: “I believe in Vietnam as an economic corridor in Asia Pacific. Phu Quoc in the south is a visa-free island and has plenty of potential to be marketed as a destination. We need to invest in T2 there to grow it.
“In terms of a Hainan-style ideology, we’re targeting the 100 million Vietnamese to engage with the opportunity for a tax free and duty free destination. And we can attract other regional markets too. Vietnam has the opportunity though of course it is about policy change as well. But Phu Quoc island is just one of many opportunities in Vietnam.
“It is about understanding our culture. We are a friendly nation with great food and hospitality, and there is much more to come.”
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