This paper examines Vietnam’s tourism policies with a focus on poverty alleviation. The development of Vietnam’s tourism is divided into three main periods. Tourism was developed for political purposes in the period 1960–1975. Its economic potential was recognised between 1976 and 1990. Since the 1990s, tourism has been supported as a tool of economic growth and poverty alleviation. Using a model of the tourism policy-making process, this paper indicates that the government has been actively involved in tourism, playing the roles of operator/entrepreneur, regulator, planner, promoter, coordinator, and educator. Though poverty alleviation has been included in many tourism policies and strategies, it has often been secondary to tourism growth. This represents the neoliberal perspective, which assumes that tourism growth will increase benefits for poor people. This paper proposes that the local tourism policies should place a greater emphasis on poverty if poverty is to be alleviated through tourism.