Tourism authority suggests solutions for slump caused by epidemic

By Anh Minh   February 15, 2020 | 11:58 pm PT
Tourism authority suggests solutions for slump caused by epidemic
A staff sprays disinfection at a hotel in Nha Trang Town of central Khanh Hoa Province. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuoc
Vietnamese tourism authorities want the government to grant visa exemptions and cut taxes to safeguard their industry amid the Covid-19 outbreak

In a communication to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism’s Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board said more than just preferential taxes and fees are required to save the industry.

It wants visa exemption, extending Vietnam visa period to 30 days, allowing tourists from Europe, Australia and Canana to return any time they wish to, because those three markets are now the best chance of the tourism sector for now, given that they have recorded the lowest decrease in number of tourists and flights.

From now until Vietnam is able to totally control the epidemic, the government should step up tourism promotion in those three markets and sustain them until the world too is rid of the epidemic, it said.

Subsequently, the tourism industry needs to actively promote itself in China and Southeast Asia, it said.

There should be a website to provide clear information in English about health checks and quarantine of visitors at borders to benefit people making plans to visit Vietnam, it said.

Value added tax on tourism should be halved to 5 percent and tourism companies should be given six to 12 months to pay the tax period, it said.

In 2020 and 2021 land-use fees for hotels and resorts should also be halved, it said.

The government should speed up progress of traffic infrastructure works such as the construction of Long Thanh Airport, the largest of its kind in Vietnam, upgrade of Tan Son Nhat airport in HCMC and Phu Bai and Dong Hoi airports in central Vietnam and expansion of Noi Bai airport in Hanoi.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment has estimated that if the epidemic is contained by late March the tourism industry could suffer losses of $2.3 billion, but if it lasts another quarter, that figure could jump to $5 billion.

In 2003, when the world was hit by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), also a type of respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus, tourism had contributed just 4 percent to Vietnam’s economy.

Then, 400,000 foreigners had canceled tours to the country.

Now the industry contributes 9.2 percent to GDP, and 18 percent if allied sectors such as hospitality and services are included.

A preliminary survey by the board found hotel occupancy rates have dropped by 20-50 percent year-on-year since Tet at the end of January. In Nha Trang, a popular destination for Chinese visitors, the rate has fallen by 98 percent.

Tourist firms have on average lost 50 percent of their business while airlines have seen demand for international travel decrease by 50 percent and for domestic travel by 40 percent. The loss for the aviation sector is estimated at VND10 trillion ($430 million).

The General Statistics Office said this week that Vietnam might receive 644,000 foreign visitors in the first quarter this year compared to 800,000 if there had been no Covid-19 outbreak.

Vietnam has so far recorded 16 cases of infection, of whom seven have been discharged from hospitals.

As of Sunday morning the global death toll has climbed to 1,669, including four outside China.

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