First in, last out
According to Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) data, the number of foreign tourists in March dropped 63.8 percent from the previous month and 68.1 percent from a year ago. In the first quarter, the country welcomed nearly 3.7 million international tourists, down 18.1 percent year-on-year. At present, most travel businesses have suspended operations due to the lack of domestic and foreign tourists. The impact of Covid-19 has caused an estimated damage of US$7 billion to the Vietnamese tourism industry.
Tourism was the sector that suffered the earliest damage caused by the pandemic and will be one of the last to recover due to its specific features. Surveys conducted by the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) show that 82.7 percent of tourism businesses do not think they will return to normal business activities until the 3rd quarter of this year, while 41.1 percent said they would only recover in 2021.
The VNAT is forecasting an L-shaped tourism recovery pattern, meaning it will take a long time for the industry to bounce back. Even when the pandemic is contained, travelers will not have enough time to make plans for later this year, signaling record low growth for Vietnam’s tourism industry this year.
To ease difficulties for the industry, the Vietnamese government has adopted support measures for small and medium-sized tourism enterprises, homestay facilities and employees in this sector, including extending the payment of value-added and corporate income tax, discounting electricity bills, debt restructuring and new loans at low interest rates. Workers in the sector who either lost their jobs or were placed on leave will get basic monthly salaries for one to three months, and suspend some social insurance contribution.
Staying home with Vietnam
Despite the many obstacles, the tourism industry is not too pessimistic in light of global efforts to curb the pandemic, develop a vaccine and begin economic recovery. According to Dr. Nuno F. Ribeiro, a senior lecturer on tourism and hospitality management at RMIT University Vietnam, countries whose governments prioritized health and well-being and successfully contained the spread of the virus will enjoy faster recovery of their tourism industry.
The government’s quick and effective handling of Covid-19 could make Vietnam a preferred travel destination in the Asia Pacific region. “Tourists will not only travel to the most beautiful and interesting countries in the world, but primarily to the safest. And Vietnam is doing a fantastic job in proving that it is one of the safest destinations in the world,” Dr Ribeiro said.
At a G20 Tourism Ministers video conference held recently, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Le Quang Tung said Vietnam would focus on gradually recovery of service sectors directly related to tourism, such as aviation and freight traffic. It will also promote domestic tourism to restore or create new jobs, implement measures to ensure absolute safety for visitors and accelerate its digital transformation process to promote tourism growth.
The tourism sector will also stimulate the domestic market, coordinate with airlines, transport and travel firms on lower fares, accommodation costs and visitor fees, and adopt favorable policies such as visa exemptions or visa fee reductions for foreign visitors to Vietnam.
The VNAT has coordinated with the TAB to launch an online tool called “Stay at Home with Vietnam” at https://vietnam.travel/things-to-do/stay-at-home designed for travelers who have has to suspend or cancel their trips to Vietnam. The site allows tourists to explore the country’s many landmarks and unique culture. The VNAT hopes the tool will help connect Vietnam with foreign tourists and inspire them to visit in the future.
Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Le Quang Tung:
“With continuous efforts and positive measures taken by many countries to control the epidemic, the disease
will quickly pass and the world’s tourism industry and Vietnam’s tourism in particular will quickly recover.”