As soon as the social distancing rule in Hanoi is eased, people gather at the Old Quarter to hang out with their family and friends, go shopping, or just enjoy the atmosphere after a long time staying at home, making the city’s busiest area lively again.
|A Hanoian family went out to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival in late September after two months stay at home implementing the shelter-in-place order. Photo: Khanh Huy
One of them, Thu Phuong, a 35-year-old spa worker, took her children here to enjoy some street food together and get some toys for them. “We used to come here a lot before the pandemic and we missed it so much. We looked forward to going out and coming back to it when we were at home in two months of shelter-in-place,” she told The Hanoi Times.
“We are still very careful as everyone wears masks and keeps distance from each other,” she added.
Meanwhile, reopening her eatery in Hang Buom Street a few days ago, Bich Ngoc is very happy to welcome her loyal customers again, though only to sell takeout food, after a time of closure with no income.
“I’ve been super busy these days and received the largest number of customers for a day ever. They were missing typical street dishes very much when they couldn’t have it at home,” she told The Hanoi Times.
Waves of the Covid-19 pandemic is dealing a severe blow to all economic sectors with tourism among the hardest hit. In Hanoi, about 95% of travel businesses have been forced to shut down, some 1,500 accommodations closed and approximately 11,600 employees quit their jobs. However, many travel enterprises in Hanoi have turned this difficult time into opportunities to change, renovate, build up and offer new products and services appropriate to the new situation, especially when travel is being restored.
New, unique products
|Hanoi will have more green, safe travel attractions after the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Khanh Huy
Catching the new demand of tourists in the pandemic period, many businesses have renewed their old products to offer fresh experiences.
For example, a night tour with light and sound effects and art shows are introduced at familiar sites that once were only open during the daytime, such as UNESCO heritage sites Thang Long Imperial Citadel, Hoa Lo Prison, the Temple of Literature, among others. These night tours bring visitors a new look at the valuable relics of the city at night time.
Meanwhile, new charter flights for bringing foreign experts to Vietnam and Vietnamese living abroad home are also conducted by several companies such as Ascend Travel and Media and Vietfoot Travel.
“When flights in domestic and international routes are cut or suspended, based on the company’s experience in organizing private flights, Ascend Travel and Media has to hire charter planes to bring customers in since April 2020,” Duong Mai Lan, Director of Ascend Travel and Media told The Hanoi Times. “Although the number of the customers is not regular, it helps us overcome the current difficult period”, she said.
In addition, Ascend Travel and Media has also cooperated with five other travel companies in Hanoi, including VietSense Travel, MyTravel, AZA Travel, Anh Duong Tour, and Asia Land Travel to operate more business lines by founding the Practical Travel Training Center (Prato). The center offers a range of training courses, with the aim of providing practical tourism skills for trainees who are staff of travel agencies, tourism students or people interested in the sector.
|Visitors to Temple of Literature on the occasion of traditional Lunar New Year in February 2021. Photo: Le Nam
Moreover, in the context that many sites of tourist interest have been temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many museums and monuments have applied new technology to attract visitors.
The Vietnam National Museum of History became the first in Vietnam to apply 3D technology for virtual exhibitions and tours, allowing people to visit and learn online about artifacts, objects, and events of the museum. The model has been followed by others including the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, the Thang Long – Hanoi Heritage Conservation Center, the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, among others.
Meanwhile, Hoa Lo Prison launches the HoaLoPrisonRelic radio channel on the Spotify platform, telling historical stories closer to the public. The Temple of Literature, on its part, produces clips of stories of famous people attached to the relic and posts them on its fan page.
Preparing to reactivate tourism
Since the launch of the vaccine rollout, the vaccination coverage in Hanoi has reached over 96.3% of the city’s adults and over 69.8% of the total population have been administered the first dose. Currently, it is injecting the second dose to the people. As the situation getting better, the city is gradually easing restrictions on economic and social activities.
Accordingly, Hanoi’s tourism sector is preparing to welcome visitors back, with the policy of building green tourist zones which ensure the safety of tourists and tourism workers. It is considered a prerequisite for Hanoi’s tourism in particular and the country’s in general at the moment, to revive the sector.
|Hanoi Tourism has already proposed a plan to the municipal People’s Committee asking for gradually reopen the sector from this October. A tour guide at Thang Long Imperial Citadel. Photo: Le Nam
According to Mr. Phung Quang Thang, Chairman of the Hanoi Travel Association, domestic tourism is still the lifeline for travel agents under this circumstance and safety is of paramount priority.
“For example, instead of big groups as before, now enterprises have to divide their customers into small groups to ensure safe distance. Meanwhile, accommodation units need to take measures to avoid guests making contact with each other. The role of the travel and hospitality businesses is very important, to regularly control and ensure safety for tourists,” he said.
In addition, Hanoi tourism is planning to reopen in four stages to safely adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic”, according to the Director of the Hanoi Department of Tourism, Dang Huong Giang.
The department has proposed the Hanoi People’s Committee open three stages this October, including accommodation services, tour operators, and travel transportation. However, some accompanying services such as spa, gym, karaoke, and so on, are still limited. Under these phases, it mainly serves tourists in the city. After the Covid-19 pandemic is totally under control, the department will continue to open the fourth phase, allowing all tourism businesses to operate and welcome tourists at the “safe localities”.
“The department will pilot the establishment of safe destinations and replicate the model if it proves successful. Currently, it promotes the association of rural tourism development with product consumption, developing agricultural tourism products associated with the OCOP (one commune one product) program,” Giang said.