Chinese visitors to Vietnam hit record high in Jan

By Hoang Phong   January 31, 2020 | 04:56 am PT
Chinese visitors to Vietnam hit record high in Jan
Foreign tourists including Chinese in UNESCO's world natural heritage Ha Long Bay, northern Vietnam. Photo by Reuters/Kham.
January saw tourists from China to Vietnam post record high growth though new coronavirus fears prompted the country to clamp down on Chinese arrivals 10 days prior.

Arrivals from China in January increased 72.6 percent from a year ago to 644,700, the highest growth and accounting for one third of total foreign tourists during the first month of the new year, according to General Statistics Office.

The country welcomed around two million foreign visitors in January, a 32.8 percent increase, official data showed. Nearly 77 percent were from Asian countries.

Vietnam’s proximity to China has made it a popular destination among many Chinese who want a vacation overseas without a long haul journey.

Most Chinese tourists enter via northern border provinces, particularly Quang Ninh, home to famous Ha Long Bay, arguably the country’s top attraction.

However, the deadly new coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak that claimed 213 lives in China as of Friday morning forced the Vietnamese government to clamp down on tourists traveling from epidemic-stricken regions in China.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) last Thursday sent a written directive to the Vietnam Aviation Department asking that all flight permits be cancelled and the granting of new permits to all flights connected to Wuhan, the epicenter of the nCoV outbreak, by both Vietnamese and foreign airlines be suspended.

CAAV later on suspended all flights to and from coronavirus-hit areas in China. The country also suspended visas for visitors from coronavirus-hit areas since Thursday this week.

South Korea was the second largest tourism market for Vietnam after China in January, with the number of South Koreans visiting the country estimated at 468,000, a year-on-year pickup of 20.4 percent. Japan came third with 89,000 arrivals, up 11.4 percent.

Travel industry insiders said the increase in foreign arrivals to Vietnam during the first month of this year is also linked to growing numbers of overseas Vietnamese returning home for Tet, the Lunar New Year festival, which began January 25, and an increase in the number of visitors from Europe, the U.S and Australia.

The number of tourists from Europe grew by 11.5 from a year ago.

Visitors from Russia, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Belarus will continue to enjoy Vietnamese visa exemptions for three more years. The scheme, begun in 2015, was set to expire on December 31 last year.

Vietnam is in the midst of a tourism boom, with an all-time high of 18 million in 2019, up 16.2 percent year-on-year. With its visa waivers, the government expects 20.5 million visitors in 2020 and revenues of $35 billion, equivalent to 10 percent of GDP.

The virus has spread from mainland China to Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, the U.S., South Korea, France, Germany, Canada, Vietnam, the UAE, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines.

World Health Organization (WHO) said an animal appears to be the most likely primary source of the virus. China stated the virus could have come from a market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally.

WHO declared a global public health emergency Thursday.

As of Friday, Vietnam reported five infections, three Vietnamese and two Chinese nationals. One Chinese  has recovered.

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