Vietnam travel firms race to improve service before Chinese tourists return

By Xanh Le, Tu Nguyen   March 13, 2023 | 10:13 pm PT
Vietnam travel firms race to improve service before Chinese tourists return
Chinese passengers arrive in Cam Ranh Airport in Khanh Hoa Province, central Vietnam, January 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Toan
Travel firms are rushing to hire staff and upgrade the quality of hotel and restaurant services as Chinese tourists prepare to return to Vietnam beginning Wednesday.

Nguyen Thi Hai Nam, deputy general director of Vietnam Global International Travel Group Co., said her company is working with partners to review the quality of restaurants that specialize in serving Chinese tourists.

After three years without Chinese visitors, many restaurants have shut down or scaled down operations to cut losses, Nam said.

Some tourist hotspots like Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Da Nang are struggling with the shortage of restaurants serving Chinese cuisine, she said, adding this was an urgent issue that should be dealt with soon because eating is the top concern of Chinese visitors while traveling abroad.

Normally, restaurants serving Chinese tourists must have a large space because visitors from the world’s largest outbound tourism market always travel in big groups from 15 to 20 people.

In addition, the dishes on the menu must also suit the taste of Chinese people because they are not used to eating Vietnamese-style dishes, Nam added.

Tuan, director of a restaurant in Ha Long that used to be a favorite hotspot of Chinese visitors, said he had borrowed hundreds of million dong (VND1 million is equivalent to $42.56) to upgrade his restaurant and hire dozens of staff in preparation for the return of Chinese tourists on March 15.

"I'm busy these days repairing my restaurant and seeking professional executants to serve Chinese tourists while they enjoy their food," he said.

Tuan also plans to hire a teacher to teach Chinese language to his staff.

Pham Tu, project manager of leading recruitment firm Hoteljob, said because Chinese often travel in large groups, they tend to choose large-scale hotels but with mid-range prices.

Nguyen Son Tung, former manager of a four-star hotel in Hanoi's Old Quarter, added that communicating with Chinese tourists is quite difficult because they rarely speak English and hotels and restaurants specializing in serving Chinese tourists often have to hire more Chinese-speaking staff.

However, the preparation for welcoming back Chinese tourists is facing some problems.

Many travel firms said they were only informed that Chinese tourists can visit Vietnam beginning March 15, but they had not received any official document related to the immigration policy and visa requirements.

China on Tuesday announced it would begin re-issuing various categories of visas to foreigners from March 15 as the country reopened its borders after three years of Covid-19 containment measures.

China was Vietnam's biggest source of foreign tourists with 5.5 million arrivals in 2019.

HSBC predicts that Vietnam could receive three to 4.5 million visitors from China this year, equivalent to 50%-80% of pre-pandemic levels.

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