Advancing coronavirus costs Vietnam tourism $7 bln in Jan-Feb

By Viet Tuan    March 4, 2020 | 12:45 am PT
Advancing coronavirus costs Vietnam tourism $7 bln in Jan-Feb
The Reunification Palace in downtown Saigon is left deserted in early February 2020 amid the novel coronavirus epidemic. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.
The novel coronavirus epidemic slashed $7 billion off Vietnam’s tourism revenue for January-February, or about 22 percent of last year’s figure.

The number of hotel guests across the country during the first two months of this year decreased by 60-70 percent, Government Office chief Mai Tien Dung told a meeting Tuesday.

The number of foreign tourists to Vietnam in January-February reached 3.2 million, up 4.8 percent year-on-year, the slowest growth for the two-month period in the past five years.

Foreign arrivals last month plummeted 22 percent against January and 21.8 percent year-on-year at only 1.24 million

"The epidemic has spread to many countries, including Vietnam’s traditional tourism markets and partners like China, Japan, South Korea and Europe," Dung said.

The coronavirus epidemic has spread to 80 countries and territories outside mainland China, with South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan the major hotspots.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the same meeting the government is willing to sacrifice some economic benefits to ensure health and safety across Vietnam.

"Many hotels are closing while some tourist hotspots are left empty," Phuc said, though affirming the country would not open its doors to tourists from epidemic-struck areas for economic profit alone.

Earlier, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) estimated the epidemic could cost the country $5.9- $7.7 billion in first-quarter tourism revenues, or about 25 percent of last year’s revenue.

Since February 1,Vietnam suspended all flights to and from China. The government later allowed resumption of services to and from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. It also suspended visas for Chinese tourists from epidemic-hit areas.

After South Korea and Italy became the worst-hit countries by the Covid-19 outside mainland China, Vietnam suspended visas to tourists from these markets to contain the spread of the virus.

The number of Chinese visitors, the biggest feeder market for Vietnamese tourism, in February was 194,000, down 62 percent from a year ago. 

Around 322,000 South Koreans came to Vietnam last month, down 16 percent from a year ago. The number of tourists from this market is expected to decrease dramatically in the coming months as Vietnamese airlines suspended all flights to South Korea amid the fast-spreading epidemic.

Vietnam has enjoyed a tourism boom the past few years, with visitor numbers last year growing 16.2 percent year-on-year to a record high of 18 million.

All of Vietnam’s 16 novel coronavirus infections have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

The government has announced that anyone coming from South Korea, Iran, Italy, and mainland China will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival.

In the case of arrivals from other countries, people from stricken areas are quarantined while the rest have to follow a health declaration protocol.

The global death toll has reached 3,202, mostly in mainland China, followed by Italy (79), Iran (77) and South Korea (32). The U.S. has reported nine deaths and Japan 12, including six on a cruise ship.

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