Cruise ship owner sells three houses to pay debts, hotel owner seeks help

The owner of a cruise ship sold his three houses to pay debts, while the owner of a hotel hung up a door plate asking for help from the local government. Both are signs of the dire conditions in the tourism sector.


Cruise ship owner sells three houses to pay debts, hotel owner seeks help

Luong Truong Vu in district 3, HCM City, was a chef at a large hotel and earned VND20 million a month. But he lost his job because of Covid-19. He is now processing seafood for a sidewalk seafood shop on Bui Vien Street.

Having 31 years of experience and once serving high-ranking APEC delegates, Vu now has had to start from the beginning. However, Bui Vien Street, called ‘backpackers’ street’ as it is a favorite destination for foreign travelers, where he works now, is quite gloomy. As there are no clients, shop owners in the area have suspended their businesses. Many retail premises have been left idle and landlords are struggling to find new tenants.

Just 200 meters from the place where Vu stands every day, Nguyen Thi Nghi, a worker at Bingsu ice cream shop, was looking at empty rows of seats ahead of her. As there were no visitors, Nghi felt sleepy.

Before the pandemic, the ice cream shop was located underground at Central Market in district 1. The revenue at that time was VND2 million a day. But now, Nghi can sell only VND100,000 or VND200,000 worth of ice cream.

The two places were once destinations for many foreign travelers who were willing to spend money on food, entertainment and shopping before the pandemic.

Luong Hoai Nam, an aviation and tourism expert, said in his presentation at a recent seminar on reopening tourism, showed an image of a hotel with a banderole hung over the entrance door which said the hotel’s owner wanted Vung Tau City authorities to allow hotels to reopen.

Nam said this was a ‘shout for help’ that represents tens of thousands of businesses.

Tran Nguyen from Sun Group noted that the tourism industry that has been hit the hardest and the slowest to recover. Sun World, a division of the group, used to received 13 million travelers, both domestic and foreign. But now, Ba Na Hills, the main unit of the system, has seen a fall of 94-96 percent of travelers over the last two years.

“A cruise ship owner in Quang Ninh asked me when tourism would reopen. He told me that in order to exist, he has sold three houses. We are struggling to maintain staff of 11,000 workers and facilities, to pay debts, taxes and land rent,” she said.

Reopen tourism properly

To prepare for reopening, Huynh Van Son, CEO of Sea Star Sai Gon JSC, is selling some assets to have money to resume operation. He said there are only two options for the tourism industry, either reopen soon or die.

Cruise ship owner sells three houses to pay debts, hotel owner seeks help

A shopping mall in District 1, HCM City

Vietravel President Nguyen Quoc Ky said he is most afraid of the inconsistency of policies. Since policies change, travel firms find it difficult to plan their business. He mentioned Hanoi’s requirement on 7-day quarantine for people from HCM City and signboards hung over houses of people under quarantine.


Ky said the domestic market is not enough for the tourism and aviation industries to develop, so reopening to foreign travelers is a must.

Tran Du Lich, an economist, agrees that the hesitancy and lack of strong measures to recover tourism will make Vietnam ‘miss the train’.

According to Lich, if Vietnam decides to reopen tourism, it should not be afraid of reopening aviation and resuming commercial flights.

He said that Vietnam cannot linger anymore and there should be strong measures in travel, accommodation services and international transport to be able to recover for the upcoming Tet holiday.

Nam said that other countries have reopened to foreign travelers. No other country requires concentrated quarantine except Vietnam, he said. The guidelines on receiving foreign travelers also has requirements that are difficult to apply.

Nam said Hanoi and HCM City are listed among the cities in the world with the highest vaccination rates, and Vietnam should reopen to develop the economy immediately or it will waste time.

However, Deputy General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) Ha Van Sieu said after a long period of stagnation, Vietnam needs to set up a roadmap and take cautious steps.

The Government has approved a plan on receiving foreign travelers to Vietnam.

In Phase 1, from November 2021, Vietnam will receive foreign travelers who come on chartered and commercial flights to Phu Quoc City (Kien Giang province), Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang and Quang Ninh.

In Phase 2, from January 2022, travelers can book tours with multiple destinations after finishing tour programs at the first destination within seven days.

In Phase 3, Vietnam will fully open the market to foreign travelers. The time for full reopening will be determined after considering the pandemic situation. 

Tran Chung