Could Travel Bridge Vietnam’s Economic Gaps with the West?

Over the last decade, Vietnam has emerged as one of Asia’s most accessible and exciting travel and leisure destinations. It’s an unusual development, particularly as the country was one of the world’s most tightly controlled and economically inaccessible just twenty years ago. As Vietnam increases its ties with the United States, the surge in international visitors could speed up development.

It’s the summer of 2010, and Saigon’s large boulevards are showing signs of rapid development and economic improvement. While the rest of the world has spent the last three years fighting off major recessions, Vietnam has been in a state of nationwide development and economic improvement. The economic capital’s streets are teeming with activity, much of it dedicated to tourism and travel.

An estimated 4.2 million tourists visited Vietnam in 2008 – a huge increase from figures released in the previous decade. Development of numerous high-end hotels in Saigon and capital Hanoi seems to be speeding up the process even more significantly, with Vietnam eyeing up Thailand’s fourteen million visitors annually as a potential target.

While the country’s rapidly developing economy brings in the bulk of its income, many within the country believe that exposure to international visitors could help Vietnam’s educational sector and economy. The country, previously a tightly controlled communist economy, is now one of the most open and trade-based in the world, taking on investment capital from the United States and Europe.

Economists claim that international exposure has helped Vietnam’s development, citing its recent military cooperation with the United States as proof that economic interests can override national rhetoric and history. With tourism constantly increasing and overseas investment arriving at speeds unheard of internationally, it seems as if travel could be a major economic bridge for Vietnam.