Since October 2021, when a number of provinces and cities in Vietnam opened their doors to welcome tourists again, first for domestic and then international visitors, Vietnam’s tourism industry has seen positive signals amid the unpredictable pandemic.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, in November the number of domestic tourists reached 2.5 million, three times more than October (750,000) and nearly nine times over September (300,000).
For the January-November period of 2021, the number of domestic tourists was 34.75 million, and total revenue was 167 trillion VND, 40% down year on year.
Domestic tourism is seeing positive changes and recovering again, Mr. Nguyen Trung Khanh, VNAT General Director, said at a recent forum to find solutions to restore sustainable tourism. Some localities have recorded strong growth in the number of visitors and revenue after many months
The central province of Khanh Hoa ranked first in November with 522,000 tourists, followed by Hanoi with 300,000, Lang Son 300,000, Quang Ninh 170,000, Lao Cai 55,450, Ha Giang 14,900, and Quang Binh 7,300.
In the southern provinces, due to the heavy impact of the pandemic, tourism activities have been quiet but are improving. Kien Giang saw 317,000 domestic visitors in November, of which Phu Quoc alone increased dramatically, from 21,000 in October to 299,000 in November.
Khanh Hoa, Da Nang, Hoi An and Phu Quoc have welcomed back the first foreign visitors. For the first time after 19 months, the Vietnamese tourism sector has statistics of foreign tourists.
However, that is only an initial result. The challenge for the tourism industry’s sustainable recovery is huge, especially when Covid is spreading and new variants have appeared.
Mr. Vo Anh Tai, Deputy General Director of Saigontourist, said the opening of tourism this time is different from previous Covid-19 outbreaks, because the number of infections, severe cases, and deaths are still high, with potential risks remaining in big cities, tourist centers, and major tourist spots. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate varies from place to place.
Mr. Vu The Binh, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said that in the new normal conditions of “living with Covid”, safety is the most important factor and is mandatory for all tourism activities such as medical declarations, travel declarations, medical tests, vaccinations.
Mr. Nguyen Quoc Ky, Chairman of Vietravel Holdings, said: “We are determined to be safe, but we must live and must work; otherwise, we will not die from the epidemic but die of economic exhaustion.”
Urgent need for recovery
Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, director of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, said the tourism industry has good resilience, but given the characteristics, the danger level and infection scale of the current Covid-19 epidemic, nobody knows when will it be controlled, so it is difficult to predict the development. However, it is certain that international tourism will take a longer time to recover than domestic tourism.
For example, the pilot project to welcome international visitors was initially successful but faced many difficulties when international visitors from key markets who were previously exempted from visas hesitated about the new conditions and procedures and the lack of guidelines on welcoming international tourists by land and sea.
New covid variants are also still appearing, posing challenges in market opening.
For the domestic market, Mr. Nguyen Quoc Ky emphasized that tourism recovery this time must be ensured with consistent policies between the Government and local departments and agencies. “Tourism firms will not be able to operate if technical barriers are erected,” he said.
To remove difficulties for tourism businesses, Vietravel’s representative proposed reducing VAT to 5% to stimulate consumption, reducing corporate income tax to 16% by the end of 2023, and providing support for interest rates.
Despite difficulties, Mr. Vu The Binh said that tourism recovery is an urgent need for all businesses and localities as it is a key economic sector. However, for the past two years, this industry has suffered the most.
It is necessary to have policies and solutions to restore domestic and international tourism, of which Resolution 128 and Instruction 3862 of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism are the basis for localities and agencies to take the initiative in creating market connections, welcoming tourists, and preparing for the full opening in the near future.