Vietnam’s post-pandemic tourism: Change to adapt

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam stated that the tourism sector should take prompt and firm steps to resume operations safely

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At a working session on October 14 morning with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on the plan to restart tourism in the coming time, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam asked the sector to take prompt and firm steps to resume operations safely.

Six groups of tasks to stimulate demand and restart tourism

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam spoke at the working session. Photo: VGP

According to Nguyen Trung Khanh – General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), the Covid-19 pandemic has caused enormous damage to the tourism industry in the last two years. In 2020, foreign arrivals only reached 3.7 million, down 80% compared to the same period in 2019; domestic visits fell to 56 million, down 34%; and total tourism revenue was VND 312,200 billion, decreasing 59%.

In the first nine months of 2021, domestic arrivals continued to fall by 16% (to 31.5 million), total revenue was about VND 137,000 billion, down 42% compared to the same period in 2020. Currently, over 30% of tour operators have applied to withdraw from the industry. The current number of active enterprises with inbound tourism licenses is 2,000, many of which have suspended operations or shut down. Meanwhile, roughly 90% of tourist accommodation establishments (accounting for 46% of the industry’s revenue) is closed, except for those repurposed for Covid-19 medical isolation.

The General Director said that the plan to stimulate demand and restart travel focuses on six groups of tasks including ensuring safety at the destinations and for tourists; enhancing tourism promotion and marketing; developing diversified products to meet new market trends; speeding up the digital transformation process in the industry; supporting businesses in accelerating the reactivation of tourism activities; and supporting the development of human resources to meet the requirements of tourism recovery.

Hoi An Ancient Town, Quang Nam Province. Photo: Booking.com

Currently, besides Phu Quoc (Kien Giang Province), other localities such as Nha Trang (Khanh Hoa Province), Quang Nam, Da Nang and Quang Ninh also have plans to reopen to international tourism.

According to a reopening schedule submitted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to the Government, Phu Quoc, and Nha Trang will reopen to international air travelers next November on a trial basis; in December 2021, other destinations meeting requirements such as Quang Ninh, Da Nang, and Quang Nam will reopen and the country will lift the travel ban on international visitors in the second quarter of 2022, provided that pandemic prevention and control measures are ensured.

In addition, preferential policies for international visitors such as visa exemption or visa fee exemption for entry into Vietnam have also been proposed, while relevant bodies have been asked to discuss measures to welcome overseas Vietnamese.

As for domestic tourism, following the Government’s instruction on “Safely and flexibly adapting to and effectively controlling the Covid-19 pandemic”, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism are currently finalizing the guidelines on reactivating domestic tourism according to four levels.

The West Lake in Hanoi. Photo: Khanh Huy

As the resumption of domestic travel is still facing difficulties due to the disparity in Covid-19 vaccination rates among localities, the Ministry believes that it is necessary to accomplish two-dose vaccination for at least 70% of people aged over 18, as well as tourism workers in the destinations.

Besides, localities must guarantee the conditions of the medical infrastructure and human resources, close coordination between relevant bodies in safely welcoming guests, and uniform regulations at the national level on vaccination certificates and travel safety criteria, among others.

Restoring tourism step by step, firmly and safely

Speaking at the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam emphasized that plans to gradually reactivate tourism could only be possible once the favorable conditions are met in terms of availability of vaccines, therapeutic drugs, and biological products for testing, along with better public awareness of pandemic prevention and control.

The terrace rice fields in Sapa Town, Lao Cai Province. Photo: Booking.com

The Deputy Prime Minister asked the ministry to promptly issue guidelines on safely and flexibly adapting to and effectively controlling the Covid-19 pandemic in cultural, sports and tourism activities. The guidelines “must be very specific and detailed”, whereas “tourism associations need to adopt their own safety regulations in accordance with the Ministry’s guidelines”.

He assigned the Ministry of Transport to promptly issue updated guidelines on the road, rail, and air transport, with detailed instructions for guests going on travel tours. “Travel, accommodation, services, meals, among others, must comply with the 5K rules, especially wearing masks and keeping the safe distance between people”, the Deputy Prime Minister noted.

Regarding the pilot scheme of welcoming international visitors, he assigned the ministry as well as tourism associations to promptly work with Kien Giang and Khanh Hoa provinces, discuss with relevant bodies to have specific proposals, and report to the Prime Minister when facing roadblocks.

“Along with other economic sectors, the tourism industry should take prompt and firm steps to resume operations safely”, the Deputy Prime Minister requested.

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