|Interview with Erica Magallon, U.S. Embassy Economic Section|
Interview with Erica Magallon, U.S. Embassy Economic Section
1. What do you think about the potential of Vietnamese tourism?
Vietnam is an attractive location for all kinds of tourists—beachgoers, nature lovers, historians, and adventure seekers. It has enormous potential to expand its tourism industry by promoting its 3,000 kilometer coastline, rich cultural diversity, seven World Heritage Sites, and dynamic history.
2. How do you evaluate the quality of Vietnamese tourism? (Facilities, services, competitiveness etc)
Vietnam currently offers world-class accommodation, reasonably priced tour packages, and many bespoke services, from private transportation to guided cooking lessons. There is always room for improvement, however, and Vietnam’s tourism industry could benefit from, for example, further development to its infrastructure, as well as more education and training for its tourism sector workers.
3. Do you think there is a large number of American tourists coming to Vietnam whose main purpose is to witness famous Vietnam war sites?
The shared history between the U.S. and Vietnam is only one of the many reasons American tourists visit—to affirm that Vietnam is a country, not a war. However, many others visit for adventure, relaxation and cultural and culinary exploration.
4. What do you think are the solutions for Vietnam to become a more attractive destination to foreign tourists?
Vietnam has an impressive landscape that is increasingly getting recognized. Ha Long Bay, for example, is currently one of 28 finalists competing for inclusion among the New Seven Wonders of Nature for 2011. While Vietnam may have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, it is generally not noted as being one of the most visited tourist destinations. When it comes to “branding” Vietnam as a destination, it may not be enough to just highlight its natural appeal without also addressing some of its challenges. Aside from natural beauty, tourists also consider how they are treated by tourist operators and immigration officers, hygiene standards, infrastructure and ease of mobility, and whether the natural landscapes are polluted or overly exploited, among other things.
5. What is the role of the United State of America’s Embassy in promoting the tourism industry between the two countries?
While the U.S. Embassy does not specifically promote tourism, the Public Affairs and Consular Sections support many exchange programs aimed at building bridges between the U.S. and Vietnam. In addition the Embassy also supports, in various ways including through the American Centers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the efforts by many Vietnamese to improve their English language abilities. Finally, by facilitating access to the Vietnamese market for American hospitality companies and firms like Boeing, the Embassy is helping to build additional ties with Vietnam’s rapidly developingtourist infrastructure.
6. What is it about Vietnam that impresses you the most?
Working in the U.S. Embassy’s Economic Section, I am impressed to see how much development progress Vietnam has made over the past two decades and how it is increasingly integrating into the world economy. Vietnam’s growth rate is one of the highest in the region and its relationship with the U.S. has deepened considerably since relations were normalized, with bilateral trade increasing over 4,000 percent since 1995. In terms of social development, Vietnam has made great strides in lifting millions of people out of poverty. Clean water supply has increased in both urban and rural areas, electricity now reaches 95 percent of the population, primary education enrollment has increased and access to health care is improving. More can be done in these areas, but the progress made so far in such a short time is commendable.
7. How many sites have you been to in Vietnam? Which one is your favorite?
I have yet to visit the central and southern regions of the country, but in the north I have visited the Perfume Pagoda and the ancient capital Hoa Lu, kayaked through Tam Coc’s caves, and hiked in Sa Pa with local Black H’mong women as my guide. I have been most impressed, so far, by the natural beauty of Ha Long Bay’s limestone islands and caves—but I look forward to visiting Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, as I hear these destinations are not to be missed.
8. What’s your favorite Vietnamese food?
I’ve enjoyed discovering Vietnamese food and so choosing one favorite dish is difficult. While phở is a staple every traveler has to try while in Vietnam, I’ve also become fond of other Vietnamese dishes such as gỏi cuốn and nem rolls, Vietnamese hotpot Lẩu, Vietnamese pancake banh xeo, green papaya salad, and the bun cha noodle dish. But, if I had to choose one favorite, it would be Hanoi’s Cha Ca dish with grilled fish and fresh herbs; rat ngon!
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