Vietnam travel destinations anxious for return of Chinese visitors as tourism struggles

By Bui Toan, Nguyen Dong, Le Tan   January 2, 2023 | 03:00 pm PT
Vietnam travel destinations anxious for return of Chinese visitors as tourism struggles
Chinese tourists enter the boats to get to islands in the central resort town of Nha Trang from Cau Da Port, 2019. Photo by AFP/Linh Pham
As China announced it would reopen its borders on January 8 after being shut for nearly three years, travel agencies around Vietnam said they were anxiously awaiting the return of Chinese tourists.

Vo Quang Hoang, chairman of Khanh Hoa Hotel Association, said many hotels in Nha Trang, traditionally a popular retreat for Chinese travelers, have upgraded their infrastructure and increased staff training in preparation for the return of Chinese tourists.

In 2019, Khanh Hoa, based in Nha Trang, welcomed 3.5 million foreign tourists, 70% of them from China. The absence of Chinese visitors, Vietnam's biggest source of tourism, for the past three years has left most hotels and restaurants in Nha Trang in desperation.

A representative of Ariyana Nha Trang Hotel said that due to the absence of Chinese visitors it had only opened its business partially over the past months to serve domestic tourists.

As China is about to reopen its borders in the new year, the hotel has reviewed the entire system, repaired rooms and upgraded all services to await the return of the traditional tourist market.

Khanh Hoa currently has more than 1,100 hotels. Of which, there are over 100 three-to-five-star hotels with about 20,000 rooms.

A representative of Cam Ranh International Terminal Joint Stock Company said Vietjet, Vietnam Airlines and China Southern Airlines plan to resume regular flights from Cam Ranh Bay to Chinese cities beginning next March, operating 60 return flights a day.

More than a thousand kilometers north of Nha Trang, Ha Long Bay in the northern province of Quang Ninh, which borders China, has long been a favorite destination among Chinese visitors.

Therefore, China's reopening and lifting of quarantine controls has stirred up hopes for the tourism industry, which received 1.5 million Chinese in 2019, accounting for 30% of total visitors from the world's largest outbound travel market.

Saigon Halong Hotel in Ha Long Bay expects it will receive Chinese arrivals from the second quarter of next year.

"It may be after the Lunar New Year, even in the summer that more Chinese tourists will return to Vietnam," said Dam Huy Long, director of Today Travel Company in Ha Long Town.

Authorities in the border town of Mong Cai, around 170 kilometers north of UNESCO heritage site Ha Long Bay, urged businesses and facilities that cater to tourists to upgrade their infrastructure and increase staff training in preparation for their first Chinese travelers.

Vu Huong Giang, chairwoman of the 5328 Mong Cai Travel Club, which is home to travel agencies specializing in welcoming Chinese tourists, said that it is ready to welcome back Chinese visitors "at any time" with hundreds of available hotel rooms.

Before the pandemic, Chinese visitors had been encouraged by a policy that allowed groups of travelers to visit the border province of Quang Ninh for up to three days without a visa.

Nguyen Duc Quynh, chairman of the Da Nang Hotel Association and vice president of Danang Tourism Association, said an influx of Chinese tourists is expected to flock to Vietnam after March.

He said the tourism industry should take the opportunity now to develop new tourism products and improve the quality of tourist services to attract big spending from Chinese visitors.

China was Vietnam's biggest source of tourist arrivals prior to the pandemic, receiving nearly 5.8 million Chinese visitors in 2019.

Vietnam last year only received 3.6 million foreign tourists, or 70% of the target.

Despite falling short this year, the tourism industry has set a target of eight million foreign tourists for next year, with China’s reopening kindling hope.

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