Jetstar chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka made this bold prediction yesterday when launching seven new weekly flights to Ho Chi Minh City from Melbourne and Sydney.

But she also said Vietnam’s growing middle class would underpin increased growth in inbound tourism to Australia.

“In the last 12 months, there has been a 21 per cent increase in visitors from Vietnam to Australia and we expect to see that grow with the introduction of our low fares on the route,” she said.

“The growing middle class in Vietnam has made it one of the fastest-growing aviation markets in the world.”

Jetstar’s announcement in Melbourne yesterday was backed by the Victorian government and the city council, who see the new flights as a boon for inbound tourism.

Victorian Trade Minister ­Philip Dalidakis said Vietnam was the third-largest source of international students in Victoria and he hoped to see that number increase.

He also said freight between Australia and Vietnam had increased fivefold in recent years and said Jetstar’s “wonderful investment” in the new route could help sustain that growth.

“Nothing does more for trade, travel and tourism than direct flights,” Mr Dalidakis said, adding that he would find time in his diary to book a family holiday to Vietnam.

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, said it made sense to have to new direct flight because one third of Australia’s Vietnamese community lived in Melbourne, and Nguyen was now the second most common name in the Melbourne phone book.

He said families of students generally visited three times while their children were studying in Australia.

Jetstar sees Ho Chi Minh City as a hub for flights into other parts of Vietnam. “From Ho Chi Minh City, travellers can fly to 15 other destinations within Vietnam on Jetstar Pacific, which ­offers the same low fares that Australians have come to expect from Jetstar,” Ms Hrdlicka said.

The three weekly flights from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City will start on May 10 and flights from Sydney will start on May 11, subject to government and regulatory approval.

“Vietnam has the potential to become as popular as Bali or Thailand for Australian travellers,” Ms Hrdlicka said.

“Vietnam is well known for its rich culture, vibrant cities, beaches and cuisine, and travellers can take advantage of the wide range of experiences the region has to offer.

“We expect our low fares and direct flights will generate even more demand for holidays to Vietnam.”

By Paul Cleary - The Australian - January 20, 2017