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Vietnamese seek life's pleasures

Released at: 14:20, 03/03/2019

Vietnamese seek life's pleasures

Photos: Viet Tuan

With rising incomes and a great deal of confidence in what the future holds, Vietnamese people increasingly reach into their pockets and buy what they like.

by Le Diem

Recently returned from China, Ms. Hong Ngan, a 27-year-old administrative officer, is now preparing visa procedures for her next trip, to South Korea. In the last two years she has made many trips to many different places. She used to try and save as much as she could and gave little thought to travel. But once her bank account started looking pretty healthy, she become open to the idea of saving a little less and getting out to see the world. For people in Vietnam’s burgeoning middle class like Ms. Ngan, travel is one way to better enjoy life now they earn a stable income. 

Vietnam’s GDP growth came in at 7.08 per cent last year, the highest for a decade and exceeding the target of 6.7 per cent, according to the General Statistics Office. GDP per capita, meanwhile, rose $198 against 2017, to $2,587. 
In the context of a bright economic picture, Vietnamese people are more than willing to spend and enjoy life. 

With a nine-point increase since the second quarter of 2018, to 129 points, due to greater confidence in employment prospects and personal finances, Vietnam’s consumer confidence level is at its highest for a decade, according to the latest issue of the Conference Board Global Consumer Confidence Survey, prepared by market researchers Nielsen. This took Vietnam into second position in the consumer confidence benchmark globally, after only India. 

The report also revealed that Vietnam consumers continue to be optimistic about their personal finances, with 82 per cent saying their personal finances would be good or excellent over the next 12 months and they are ready to spend. Some 63 per cent believe the next 12 months will be a good time to buy things they both need and want.

Besides life’s daily needs, products and services that help them relax or be entertained are high on their shopping list. 

Each month, Ms. Cam Tu, a 33-year-old marketing executive, spends one-third of her income on shopping. Like many other women, her favorite items are clothes, bags, and shoes. “Most women like to shop,” she said. “I feel happy when I have something new to wear and look good. Shopping also helps relieve stress when I’m really busy at work. It really is one of life’s true pleasures.” 

While fashion items take large sums from purses, high-tech devices see men open their wallets. Mr. Minh Tuan, a 30-year-old salesman, changes his mobile phone regularly. He always knows what has been recently released and likes to try the latest in technology. He is also willing to outlay money on devices such as a smart watch, a smart TV, and good-quality speakers.

Fashion and technology were indeed the most purchased products by Vietnam in 2018, with 53 per cent and 47 per cent, according to the Nielsen report. While growth in the purchase of fashion items was only 3 per cent, technology buys rose remarkably, at 11 per cent over the last two years. Local consumers also spend more on furniture these days. 

One important factor that encourages purchases is the development of e-commerce, according Nielsen. The ready availability of diverse products delivered to the home makes spending easy, especially in urban areas where life is busy and traffic heavy. “I don’t need to go out to shop like before, thanks to online sites like Lazada, Sendo, Shopee, and Adayroi,” Ms. Tu said. “When I want something, I just type in the keyword on the site and see what’s available. I was a bit surprised when I first started shopping online and saw tiny stuff like hair bands and key rings for sale. There are some things I can’t even find in shops. Another good thing is that the price is usually cheaper too.” Making payments, having goods delivered, and easy refund processes when she’s not happy with what she bought are also plusses. 

Together with a wider range of imported food, new technology also encourages more wining and dining. The appearance of many food apps, especially over the last two years, makes it easy for diners to try new dishes and new restaurants, either after making a reservation online or arranging for home delivery. Attractive promotions are also common, which make more people willing to buy food than cook at home. On the weekend, after a long week at work, many say they prefer to go out for dinner with family or friends to enjoy good food and spend time together. 

Travel is very much a way people enjoy life nowadays, according to local tour operators. 

Eighty million trips were taken by Vietnamese people last year, up 9.5 per cent against 2017. Outbound travel was much higher, with some 7.5 million people heading overseas, up 15 per cent, according to the latest figures from the Vietnam Tourism Association. A report forecasting the future of the outbound market in Asia Pacific over 2016-2021, released recently by Mastercard, showed that Vietnam is second in the region it terms of annual growth in the number of outbound tourists, at 9.5 per cent each year, after Myanmar’s 10.6 per cent.

After saving for a trip to Cambodia, Ms. Ngan recognized that visiting strange places and discovering new things gave her a lot of pleasure and is a welcome escape from her busy, stressful routine. “Preparing for a trip is also exciting, reading about where I’m going and looking forward to leaving,” she said. “And when I return, I always see a refreshed version of me.” 

Having not travelled much at all, Mr. Dao Tien, a retired teacher, dismissed his daughter’s idea of the whole family taking a trip together, preferring instead to keep an eye on his savings. He and his wife, though, eventually agreed to go to Thailand with their son and daughter, and he was surprised how much he enjoyed it. They now travel together a few times a year, including at least one overseas trip. 

Outbound journeys are more popular as they offer different and diverse landscapes, people, and cultures. “Vietnam is beautiful but I want to see something different,” Mr. Tien said. “Travelling overseas also gives me a chance to learn about other worlds, in a way I can’t from books and pictures. It also brings the family closer together.”

According to a recent survey on travel and tourism in 2018 from Visa, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore are most visited countries by Vietnamese travelers, who are also now willing to spend more while doing so, outlaying a median of $1,100 per trip in 2018, up from $880 previously.

With the country’s economic growth, Vietnamese people seek a better life and actively make it come true, according to Ms. Nguyen Huong Quynh, Managing Director of Nielsen.

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