Saigon's Q1 foreign arrivals down 42 percent

By Nguyen Quy   April 6, 2020 | 01:00 am PT
Saigon's Q1 foreign arrivals down 42 percent
A man walks at the intersection of Le Lai and Pham Hong Thai streets in HCMC's District 1, March 28 2020. Photo by Nguyen Ngoc Thien.
Ho Chi Minh City lost around VND10 trillion ($425 million) in first-quarter tourism revenue, with its foreign visitor numbers plummeting 42 percent year-on-year due to the novel coronavirus.

The number of foreign arrivals in Ho Chi Minh City in Jan-March fell to 1.3 million, while tourism revenue hit VND25.5 trillion ($1.08 billion), down 26 percent over the same period last year, according to the municipal Tourism Department.

Most tourist destinations have been deserted since the Lunar New Year holiday (January 24-29), with some sites reporting a 70 percent fall in visitor numbers, amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Prime Minister declared the outbreak an epidemic on February 1.

With no bookings amid coronavirus fears and travel restrictions, many hotels and tourism firms in Saigon have closed and asked staff to take unpaid leave.

HCMC-based travel company VietCircle has let most of its staff work from home at a salary cut. CEO Phan Dinh Hue said: "Like others in the industry, we have to use our contingency funds to cover costs in order to survive the difficult time."

Nguyen Quoc Ky, CEO of HCMC-based Vietravel, said over 1,000 of its employees have stayed home in recent weeks earning only a basic salary because of the lack of work.

Company leaders have regularly met to discuss rebooting the business following the pandemic. "We are working to restructure the firm and digitize all business, something we did not have time to pay attention to before," he added.

Ben Thanh Market in downtown HCMC wears deserted look, March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran. 

Ben Thanh Market in downtown HCMC wears a deserted look, March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran. 

Ho Chi Minh City has closed all historical sites and tourist attractions from March 28 until April 15 following a directive issued by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, ordering all "non-essential" businesses around the country to be closed until April 15 as it enters what he called a critical two-week stage in Vietnam’s Covid-19 fight.

From mid-March, the city had already closed all bars, karaoke parlors, restaurants, and other entertainment facilities as it joined the country in trying to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

HCMC received over 8.6 million foreign visitors last year, up 13 percent from a year ago. 

Vietnam welcomed nearly 3.7 million foreign tourists in the first quarter, down 18.1 percent year-on-year, as the government suspended entry for all foreign nationals starting March 22, including those of Vietnamese origin and family members with visa waivers, and stopped all international flights from March 25 in an unprecedented response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mauro Gasparotti, director of Savills Hotels in Asia Pacific, stated Vietnam's tourism industry is currently heavily affected by the pandemic, which is expected to continue until the end of 2020.

Tran The Dung, CEO of HCMC-based Fiditour Travel, said with the visa suspension for foreigners and cancelation of all international flights, Vietnam’s tourism industry has been hit hard with almost no foreign arrivals in April.

Vietnam’s total infections have so far reached 241. A total 91 patients have been discharged from hospital.

Many of the 150 active cases are Vietnamese nationals returning from abroad, mostly from Europe and the U.S., with over 60 related to the two major Covid-19 hotspots in the country – Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi with at least 43 cases and Buddha Bar & Grill in Ho Chi Minh City with 18 cases.

The global death toll in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has reached more than 69,300 people.

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