Hence, we need to do away with existing bottlenecks and remove several obstacles that are constantly hindering further development of the aviation industry across all aspects, including vital airport infrastructure, that will in turn help the tourism industry to flourish as well.
In 2019 the tourism industry welcomed an impressive 18 million international visitors, of which about 14.4 million travelled by air, which accounts for a total of 80% of these visitors. There are routes where tourists take over 100% of seat allocation, such as popular travel routes or on flights hired to bring in visitors to Vietnam. Among domestic tourists, about one quarter travel by airplane, equivalent to 21.2 million passengers. These do not include passengers traveling abroad by plane.
In 2020, the tourism industry is expecting to welcome almost 20.5 million international visitors and serve 90 million domestic travelers. This number is certain to grow further if Vietnam's tourism industry expands and begins to offer higher quality of services. As a result, the number of airplane passengers will also increase in coming years. Hence, airplanes do not merely transport passengers but also promote the country, the people, culture and the vitally important tourism industry of Vietnam.
In recent years, aviation infrastructure within the airports across Vietnam is facing continued degradation due to constant overload. This has become a serious problem and if not resolved soon, the entire tourism industry will feel the constrain and be unable to further expand. Tourism can be gravely affected because of poor air travel facilities as many visiting tourists do not favor travel by road or sea.
Currently Vietnam is operating twenty-two commercial airports across the country, which includes four major airports, namely, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Da Nang International Airport in Da Nang City, and Cam Ranh International Airport in Khanh Hoa Province, the latter bringing much needed tourism to the famous Nha Trang City. All these airports are working their facilities to a maximum, even exceeding capacity. Even Phu Quoc International Airport that was completed in 2012 is now feeling the strains of overload.
Although Vietnam has twenty-two airports, the total capacity of all the Vietnamese airports is on par with single airports such as Changi Airport in Singapore, Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia.
At a high level forum on tourism in late 2019, many speakers agreed that solving the problems of overload of aviation infrastructure at major airports can be possibly resolved by bringing in more private investors. It is a fact that private participation in aviation infrastructure investment is not entirely unknown in many developed countries. Many countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Thailand offer private investors the task of operational management, which has proved and achieved excellent results.
Mr. Vu Tu Thanh, Deputy Regional Executive Director of US-ASEAN Business Council, one of the participants in many forums on overloading of Vietnam's aviation infrastructure, said that short-term solutions have been discussed, such as optimizing the capacity of smaller airports, but the most important solution to be considered is still public-private cooperation, and mobilizing of private capital.
Four years ago, the policy of public-private cooperation in aviation infrastructure development was the key trend. Specifically, the National Assembly approved the policy of building Long Thanh airport on the basis of public-private partnership (PPP). However, the Ministry of Transport proposed to assign the Vietnam Airport Corporation (ACV) to invest in Long Thanh airport, thus eliminating the dynamic inclusion of any private sector investor.
Currently, many foreign enterprises are interested in investing in Vietnam's aviation industry, but are first awaiting for Vietnam to present more clear and transparent policies. This calls for the Government to review earlier policies and procedures of involving private investors in aviation infrastructure, remove bottlenecks in the functioning of policies, help in developing the aviation industry for the future, and as a result see a surge in a more developed and vibrant tourism industry.