Tourism recovery can take off alongside flights resumption

By Dat Nguyen   April 6, 2021 | 05:00 pm PT
Tourism recovery can take off alongside flights resumption
Empty tourist boats seen in Hoi An Town, central Vietnam in July 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo by VnExress/Son Thuy.
Tourism companies see a proposed plan to gradually resume international flights as a necessary first step for their sector to recover from the pandemic-inflicted slump.

Nguyen Minh Man, head of marketing at the HCMC-based TST Tourist Co., said that a slow and careful reopening of Vietnam's borders can form a strong foundation to resume tourism activities.

"This is a golden time for the tourism industry to prepare their human resources and products to recover and achieve a breakthrough next year," he added.

Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy director of Hanoi Redtours, said that although the flight resumption won't be able to "save" Vietnamese tourism this year, it will be a necessary first step for recovery.

International flights will first help resume trade and business activities, which will boost demand for niche tourism segments such as golf and luxury tourism, and after that, other popular segments will start to recover, he said.

"If vaccinated passengers can enter the country in September, that would be an ideal time to travel to Vietnam’s warm beaches or visit terraced fields during the harvest."

The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) is considering the resumption of international flights starting July, with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan the first destinations, each side operating four flights a week.

All passengers will be quarantined upon arrival as per the Health Ministry protocol. It is expected that around 6,000 to 7,000 passengers would enter the country each week from the three Asian destinations.

The CAAV has proposed that starting September, vaccinated foreign passengers into the country are allowed into the country without requiring centralized quarantine.

Vietnamese carriers are eagerly awaiting the government's green light to take to the skies again.

Budget airline Vietjet resumes regular flights to Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan this month, serving Vietnamese citizens wishing to study and work abroad, as well as stranded foreigners wanting to return home.

On return trips, the carrier will only carry Vietnamese citizens being repatriated or foreign experts with permission to enter the country as per government regulations.

Meanwhile, national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines has said it will reopen international commercial flights connecting Hanoi and HCMC with several Asian destinations including South Korea, Japan and Australia this month.

However, tourism companies are not too optimistic about a quick recovery. Hoan of Hanoi Redtours said that for this year and the next, domestic travel will be the main revenue source for his company, and prospects for international travel will only look up in 2023 as the earliest.

"We are seeing rising numbers of individual and company trips bookings domestically, and this will be our main focus for the time being. Until the Covid-19 situation is well under control globally, we should not pin our hopes on international travel."

Vietnam closed its national borders and canceled all international flights in March 2020. Since then, only Vietnamese repatriates, foreign experts and highly-skilled workers are being allowed in under strict conditions.

The number of foreign visitors to Vietnam in the first quarter fell 98.7 percent year-on-year to 48,000 with travel restrictions in place to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19.

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