|Foreign tourists were seen in HCMC in the pre-Covid-19 period. – SGT Photo: Dao Loan|
Hundreds of travel companies out of the market
Over the past two years, the pandemic has delivered a heavy blow to the tourism industry, leading to the number of inbound and outbound tour operators in the country shrinking.
According to an annual report of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Vietnam had 2,667 inbound and outbound tour operators in 2019. However, recent data of the administration showed that the current figure has dropped to around 2,000.
As for the operational travel companies, many of them have suspended or scaled down operations.
Due to the closure of borders since March 2020, Vietnam received only 3.7 million international tourists last year, dropping a staggering 80% year-on-year.
From January to September 2021, the number of domestic tourists fell 16% from the same period last year to only 31.5 million, sending tourism revenues tumbling 41% year-on-year.
“In 2020 and 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic has put the tourism industry in an unprecedented crisis,” Nguyen Trung Khanh, chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said at a recent meeting.
Government plans bubble tours for international guests
To help the tourism industry recover, the central Government is considering gradually reopening domestic tourism and piloting bubble tours for international travelers.
Some cities and provinces have resumed domestic tour programs. Tourists can now take inner-city or inner-province tours, or interprovincial tours such as HCMC – Quang Binh and HCMC – Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
However, to welcome back international tourists, local travel firms should be better prepared.
At its September meeting, the Government reaffirmed that bringing the pandemic under control would play a vital role in facilitating a social and economic recovery.
The local authorities have relaxed coronavirus restrictions to help manufacturing and trade activities recover since early this month.
In terms of tourism, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will work with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and local authorities to draw up a plan for a gradual resumption of international travel services. The proposal will be submitted to the prime minister this month.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will work with the Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies to set out criteria for the recognition of Covid-19 vaccine passports.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has proposed piloting reopening Phu Quoc Island to international tourists in late November.
Some other provinces such as Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam and Quang Ninh have also suggested allowing international tourists to come back.