Tourism workers get emotional welcoming foreign tourists back

By Lan Huong   March 30, 2022 | 05:02 pm PT
For many tourism workers, the reopening of international tourism and return of foreign tourists to Vietnam, reviving their vocation, has been an emotional, tearful experience.

Huynh Duy Hien, a 45-year-old tour guide who specialized in serving foreign tourists, switched to real estate trading after the Covid pandemic broke out and inbound tourism was suspended for almost two years.

About a fortnight ago, a British tourist messaged him via WhatsApp, reminding him to check his email because he wanted to book a tour to Vietnam after the country reopened international tourism on March 15.

"I was shocked and in tears as the British family of four confirmed they would book a tour to visit Vietnam starting March 22," Hien said.

"This was the first group of foreign tourists I'd received after nearly two years and I felt excited and happy though they were only a small group," he added.

After arriving in Vietnam, the British family started their two-day-one-night journey to visit Cai Be District in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang, stayed overnight in Can Tho and dropped by the Cai Rang floating market before moving to Vinh Trang Pagoda.

The British family pose for a group photo during their trip to the Mekong Delta, March 2022 after Vietnam reopens international tourism. Photo courtesy of Huynh Duy Hien

A British family pose for a photo during their trip to the Mekong Delta, March 2022. Photo courtesy of Huynh Duy Hien

They said they'd visited Thailand before, but when they heard that Vietnam has reopened its border to foreign tourists, they decided to visit the country before flying to Singapore to work.

Their entrance was easy. The procedures including making medical declarations and checking PCR test results only took around 15 minutes.

The visitors found the Cai Rang floating market fascinating and felt Vietnam has many unspoiled scenes and delicious food. They said they would recommend friends to visit the country.

"After two days of being with them, their friendliness made me feel like family," Hien said.

Pham Ha, CEO of tour operator Lux Group, which specializes in luxury cruise ships, said all his staff "cried tears of joy" as they welcomed a group of 10 foreign tourists from Singapore and Europe.

The tourists booked a package tour including limousine transport from Hanoi, seaplane service and a two-night cruise to visit Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay.

The foreigners said the trip was exciting and that Vietnam was their first foreign destination after the pandemic.

The visitors from Singapore said they were impressed with the natural beauty, cuisine and hospitality of Vietnamese people.

Foreign tourists on an islet in Ha Long Bay, Quang Ninh Province, March 2022. Photo courtesy of Lux Group

Foreign tourists on an islet in Ha Long Bay, Quang Ninh Province, March 2022. Photo courtesy of Lux Group

Ha said: "We are seeing very good signals from the markets of Southeast Asia, Australia and Western Europe. Many groups of tourists have booked tours to visit Vietnam from September this year to April next year, showing their trust and love for the country."

Asian Exotic, a HCMC-based travel agency, welcomed a couple from Mexico Wednesday, the company's first foreign customers after nearly two years.

Bui Dang Giang, managing director of the company for the Indochina region, said she could not forget the happiness she felt as she received the booking from the Mexican couple.

The couple booked the tour several times in 2020 and 2021, but had to cancel each time. This time, they will stay in Vietnam for nine days and visit Da Nang, Hoi An, Hanoi, Ha Long and HCMC.

Vietnam closed inbound tourism and stopped granting visas for foreign tourists in March 2020, leaving thousands of tourism workers to find other ways to survive.

From March 15, foreigners entering Vietnam only need to furnish a negative Covid test result and don't have to be quarantined.

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