“The number of tourists and businessmen visiting Vietnam is not only increasing but multiplying.”
Ambassador Thanh said package tours for Sri Lanka is now being sold by Vietnam travel firms and some tourists have already arrived. Sri Lankans have also started to travel to Vietnam.
“That show the interest of Vietnamese tourists about Sri Lanka,” he said. “We should work on it so that we can promote more tourists not only from Sri Lanka to Vietnam but also from Vietnam to Sri Lanka.”
With growing affluence, Vietnamese have started travelling abroad in a big way, with Europe and South East Asia being top destinations. Last year 90,000 Vietnamese had travelled to Korea. There are 73 flights a week between Vietnam and Korea.
Ambassador Thanh says direct air links between Vietnam and Sri Lanka would boost tourism. Vietnam had welcomed five million tourists last year. With three million tourists already arrived by June, projected arrivals for 2011 is six million visitors.
Vietnam has a number of world heritage sites, including Ha Long bay, 1,500 square kilometre a karst limestone formation with over 1,900 islets.
Government to government links are also growing. Ambassador Thanh says a delegation from Sri Lanka’s western provincial council is going on a familiarization visit to Vietnam shortly.
Earlier this month Sri Lanka’s agriculture minister visited Hanoi and inked deals for agricultural co-operation.
Vietnam has efficient farmers who produce food at world beating prices with no tariff protection. This year agricultural exports are expected to reach 19 billion US dollars, with rice alone brining in 3.6 billion US dollars and coffee 4.0 billion dollars.
Vietnam farmers also grow fish. Last year the country exported 5.0 billion US dollars of seafood against total exports of 71 billion dollars.
Up to June this year seafood exports were 2.6 billion US dollars, up 28 percent, according to Vietnam’s agriculture and rural development ministry.
Sri Lanka’s top export to Vietnam last year was animal feed, which goes to the country’s aquaculture sector, Ambassador Thanh said.
Exports of animal feed to Vietnam reached 21 million dollars last 201, out of total exports of 30.9 million.
Woven fabric exports from Sri Lanka were 5.1 million dollars in 2010 to feed Vietnam’s apparel industry. This year Vietnam’s apparel exports are projected at 13 billion dollars.
In 2010 a Vietnamese trade delegation visited Sri Lanka, headed by a vice minister and established the Vietnam – Sri Lanka Business Council.
Last year two-way trade between the two countries rose 87 percent to 93 million US dollars according to Vietnam data. Trade has been growing since President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Vietnam in 2009.
At the time, two-way trade was about 50 million dollars and a target was set to double it to 100 million dollars by 2012, which as almost reached last year.
“So it was two years earlier than what we expected,” Ambassador Thanh said. “In the coming years we can expect to have more two-way trade. We can reach up to 150 to 200 million US dollars in two years.”
Several Sri Lankan firms have also invested in Vietnam. Vietnam is one of the world’s top recipients of foreign though foreign direct invest at 5.6 billion US dollars in the six months to May, was lower than last year.
Ambassador Thanh says Sri Lanka can also attract investment from Vietnam companies in oil and gas, telecom and construction as the companies in that country are now actively investing abroad.