Rough Guides renames Vietnam one of the 20 most beautiful countries to visit
Popular travel site Rough Guides has re-released a survey it conducted in 2014 to find the 20 most beautiful countries in the world.
Vietnam propped up the top 20 as one of the three Asian countries on the list, with India placed in 13th and Indonesia in an impressive 6th.
Scotland topped the list as the most beautiful country to visit, while the rest of the top 20 was made up of Canada, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa, England, Iceland, the U.S., Wales, Slovenia, Mexico, Finland, Switzerland, Peru, Norway, Ireland and Croatia.
The site cited Vietnam's "impressive" rock formations in Ha Long Bay and the rice fields in the northern highlands for its inclusion on the list, and it's not the first time these destinations have received global accolades.
Touropia, another famous travel guide, once named the terraced fields outside Sa Pa the 11th most beautiful natural site in the world, while the U.S.-based Travel and Leisure selected it as the seventh most spectacular destination to visit.
Vietnam is also known for its stunning beaches and islands, the ancient town of Hoi An and its stunning cave system, which includes the world’s largest cave Son Doong.
The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report released by the World Economic Forum last April highlighted captivating scenes as a major draw for Vietnam, which ranked 67th among 136 economies and was among the 10 most-improved since 2015.
Yet Vietnam has been struggling to balance its natural beauty with a tourism growth obsession.
Foreign visitors to Vietnam rose 26 percent to a record 10 million last year, making it the world’s seventh fastest growing travel destination, according to a United Nations report in June.
The country raked in VND400 trillion ($17.6 billion) from tourism last year and the industry is aiming to make $35 billion per year in 2020, contributing 10 percent to the economy compared to the current 7.5 percent.
At the same time, it has received criticism from travelers and conservationists about littering and the concrete invasion of resorts and cable cars at popular sites.
Tourism officials say only a third of visitors return to Vietnam, while industry experts claim the rate is less than 10 percent, compared to 60-70 percent in Thailand.