Gradual Reopening with Caution

Vietnam’s domestic tourism market has started to move on after a long time of respite due to the second attack of the coronavirus in late July.

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However, most players in the field are maintaining a cautious approach, only booking services in accordance with their confirmed orders. Few have been willing to make wholesale orders like they did before.

Vietnam travelers in the upland city of Dalat in Lam Dong Province – PHOTO: THANH HOA

Unlike the previous confidence prior to the return of Covid-19, the tourism industry in Vietnam is now more cautious about the future of the domestic tourism market. Although there has been a return of guests, the fear of a potential resurgence of the pandemic at any time, as well as concerns about reduced spending and financial constraints, are preventing most tourist companies from making large orders.

“We should have already arranged the flight tickets and hotels for Tet (Lunar New Year),” says the general director of a travel agency in District 1, HCMC. “But we haven’t done anything yet.”

Due to financial constraints after a stagnant period of business, many tour operators are unable to pay for the advance of services, even though their partners, such as airlines and hotels, are eager for payments.

“An advance payment requires a middle-sized company to pay several billion dong and a large company several tens of billions of dong,” says the general director. “No one is willing to pay that now.”

Nguyen Ngoc An, deputy director of Fiditour, a travel service, shares this sentiment. He says Fiditour has started receiving customers again in mid-September. However, it is still too early to predict the state of the market. Therefore, preparations for future services, especially for the Gregorian calendar New Year and the Lunar New Year, are merely for show.

“We have started receiving guests again and have prepared some services for the Lunar New Year,” says An. “However, we don’t assume anything. The market has only just reopened.”

Other business owners also state that while they want to have services ready to offer the best prices to domestic travelers, who are currently the most important segment, they are observing their counterparts and rivals before making any decisions. Few have made a decision so far. This “status quo” may change once September comes to an end and if the pandemic can continue to be well contained.

Safety is the top priority

On September 18, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism launched a stimulus program for domestic tourism in the last months of this year. The focus of this program is “Safe and Sound Travel in Vietnam,” targeting domestic travelers and expatriates living in the country. To make the most of this program, tourist companies have formed stimulus alliances to offer products at reasonable prices, implement the best safety measures, and enhance communication on safe travel.

Regarding this issue, those working in the tourism sector argue that after the second wave of the coronavirus in Vietnam, safety has become more important than ever in attracting customers. Therefore, emphasizing the communication about safe destinations in this stimulus campaign and developing digital maps of infected areas and safe zones is crucial to boosting the domestic market.

“Tourists will travel again if the pandemic is well controlled and destinations are safe,” says Nguyen Huu Y Yen, general director of Saigontourist Travel Service. Yen emphasizes that better communication about safe destinations will make the market more optimistic.

Addressing the question of which market segments are most likely to recover after the second wave of the coronavirus, Yen states that the corporate segment seems to be the most promising at the moment.

At Saigontourist Travel Service, old customers have maintained their contracts and new customers are coming in, according to Yen. The new guests are companies placing orders for their staff in the near future.

Meanwhile, some tour operators focusing on cruise ship passengers and accommodation value the segments of walk-in guests and independent travelers. Luxury Travel Group, for example, had all the seats on tourist boats in Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island filled by customers from these categories last week.

Building digital maps of infected and safe zones

In a recent move, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has proposed several urgent measures to the Prime Minister to support tourist firms and their workforce in overcoming difficulties caused by Covid-19.

Among these proposals, along with measures related to finance and taxes, the ministry suggests collaborating with the Ministries of Information and Communication and of Health to develop an app on safe travel in Vietnam and a digital map of infected and safe zones.

The ministry argues that the digital map will provide convenience for aviation and tourist companies in planning their sales. Travelers will also find the map useful, says the ministry. SGT

Dao Loan