Vietnam tourism recovery requires more action: experts

By Vien Thong   November 22, 2021 | 01:56 am PT
Vietnam tourism recovery requires more action: experts
Tourists are seen at a park in Tuan Chau, Quang Ninh Province, October 3, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Cuong
Vietnam’s tourism industry is slowly rebooting after months of hibernation, but more action is needed to ensure sustainable recovery, experts warn.

The southern resort island of Phu Quoc in Kien Giang Province on Saturday welcomed its first two hundred vaccinated foreign tourists after Vietnam closed its border to Covid-19 nearly two years ago.

"This is the first and most vital step in reviving our tourism sector and prepare for full resumption next year," Nguyen Trung Khanh, chairman of the country's tourism administration stated.

Other tourism hotspots like the ancient town of Hoi An and central beach city Da Nang have also been welcoming back international tourists.

Kien Giang is one of five localities to get the green light from the government to welcome back fully immunized tourists from November onwards along with Quang Nam, Khanh Hoa, Quang Ninh, and Da Nang.

Tourism companies are reporting brighter figures after months of nearly zero activity due to the fourth Covid-19 wave, which began at the end of April.

Booking platform iVIVu in October saw sales rising to 10 percent of pre-pandemic levels, while Traveloka Vietnam also reported an increase in hotel bookings.

Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho, a luxury resort in the central province of Phu Yen, has been offering new promotions to attract customers.

"After months of severe business disruption, we are starting to see rays of hope," a spokesperson told VnExpress.

Vietnam’s tourism experienced an upward trend before the pandemic, with the number of international visitors reaching a record high of 18 million in 2019, contributing $33 billion to the economy, or 12.5 percent of GDP.

But the figure plunged to 3.8 million last year and 125,100 in the first nine months of 2021.

The lack of international visitors make it hard for accommodation, transport and food businesses to fully recover, despite a domestic travel push, according to HSBC analysts.

Ninety six percent of tourism companies had shut down as of August, according to a survey by VnExpress and Private Sector Development Committee.

Around two million employees in the service sector were unemployed in the third quarter, with their income dropping 15 percent from the second quarter.

Some analysts have affirmed challenges remain.

Vu Tuan Hung, deputy director of the Academy of Social Sciences, said in the next three to six months, the tourism sector would still experience low demand as Covid-19 resurgences hit Singapore, the U.S., Russia, and several European countries.

This will prompt the Vietnamese government to be more careful in welcoming foreign tourists.

On the domestic market, the rising number of Covid-19 cases will limit recovery.

"I hope the increasing vaccination rate and medicine development would boost recovery starting 2023."

Some tourism companies are still struggling to forecast future demand.

"It is very difficult for us to make a projection as the latest policy updates could cause last-minute changes in demand," a spokesperson for Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho said.

Several solutions have been proposed to speed up the recovery process.

The Private Sector Development Committee has petitioned a loan program for 2022-2023 specifically designed for hotels, airlines and tourism companies. They should also receive wavers in tax and certain fees, it stated.

Loans will help companies bounce back after a long time fighting the pandemic as their resources have dwindled, said Nguyen Trung Cong, CEO of iVIVu.

Cong added the tourism industry needs to adapt to the new normal, including digitalizing services and focusing on small groups as people refrain from big travel groups.

Leaders of Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho proposed more specific guidelines on domestic travel be communicated as people are reluctant to make travel plans due to inconsistencies in implementing policies between localities.

Huynh Thi Mai Thy, country market manager for Traveloka Vietnam, said if the reopening of Phu Quoc proves a success, more flights could be scheduled to other locations like Quang Ninh Province, home to popular Ha Long Bay.

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