Coronavirus fears exact heavy toll on Saigon tourism

By Hoang Phong   March 8, 2020 | 12:25 am PT
Coronavirus fears exact heavy toll on Saigon tourism
Foreign tourists visit the Independence Palace in downtown Saigon in February, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.
Tourism has taken a big hit in Vietnam’s southern metropolis with foreign arrivals plummeting over 50 percent in February.

The municipal Tourism Department's latest report says the number of foreign arrivals in Ho Chi Minh City last month fell 52 percent to 346,560, while tourism revenue was VND8.1 trillion ($348 million), a year-on-year drop of 30 percent.

Average room rates of hotels with three to five stars are being offered at discounts of 45-50 percent. Almost 88,000 Vietnamese and international tourists have scrapped their plans to visit the city since the novel coronavirus outbreak happened in China in December and spread to other countries, according to a survey of 22 major tourism companies in the city by the department.

Falling tourism revenues in HCMC reflect the dark landscape of Vietnam’s tourism industry at present. The country lost $7 billion in tourism revenue in the first two months of this year, according to official data.

Vietnam suspended all flights to and from China starting February 1. The government later allowed resumption of services to and from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. It has also canceled many flights from Vietnam to South Korea and suspended visa-free travel for South Koreans amidst "complicated" developments of the Covid-19 epidemic.

HCMC received more than 8.6 million foreign visitors last year, up 13 percent from a year ago. It hoped to get 10 million visitors this year, 10 percent more than last year. The city raked in VND150 trillion ($6.4 billion) in tourism revenue last year.

Vietnam has recorded five new infections since Friday after going 22 days with no new infection. Previously, all the 16 patients had recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

The country's new patients include 26-year-old Nguyen Hong Nhung (17th patient) who returned from Europe, a 27-year-old man returning from South Korea's Daegu City (18th), the personal chauffeur and an aunt of Nhung (19th and 20th) and a 61-year-old man who was on the same flight as Nhung (21st patient).

The global death toll from the Covid-19 epidemic has reached nearly 3,600 in 102 countries and territories, mostly in mainland China (3,097), followed by Italy (233), Iran (145) and South Korea (50).

Starting Saturday, everyone arriving in Vietnam from overseas will need to fill in health declaration forms.

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