Vietnam’s tourism sector proactively copes with novel coronavirus epidemic

Wednesday, 2020-02-12 11:57:52
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Tour guides presenting free masks to visitors.
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NDO – The tourism sector has suffered severe impacts from the complicated movements of the acute respiratory infection which is caused by a new strain of coronavirus (Covid-19) over recent days.

How to cope with and minimise the negative consequences of the epidemic to maintain the stability and quickly recover tourism activities is a difficult problem that is of concern to the whole sector.

Difficulties due to epidemic

Compared to the impacts on the tourism sector during the outbreak of the SARS epidemic 17 years ago, the consequences caused by Covid-19 are more serious. In addition to the sharp decline in the number of Chinese tourists, which accounts for 30% of the structure of international visitors to Vietnam, the epidemic has also made foreign tourists from other markets afraid to travel to Asia. Moreover, the number of domestic travellers has also plummeted. The danger posed by Covid-19 has forced many countries to take drastic measures such as closing flight routes and cancelling or postponing all crowded events and festivals. According to the travel management agencies and tourism associations in many localities, the cancellation of tours, seats and services is very common. The immediate damage to the tourism sector is estimated at tens of trillion of Vietnamese dongs.

In Hanoi, the number of cancelled rooms reached 13,000 (equivalent to more than 16,000 guests) by February 3. Over 7,600 inbound visitors and 7,100 outbounds tourists cancelled tours; meanwhile the operation of transportation enterprises decreased by 30%-50% and the number of tourists to destinations in the capital city also saw a decline of around 30%-50%. The number of visitors to Quang Ninh Province decreased sharply by 90%. Ha Long Bay in the province previously welcomed an average of 12,000 tourists per day, but now only receives around 3,000 guests per day. The figure is forecast to drop even lower in the coming days. Meanwhile, over 500 tourist ships, with over 4,000 employees, are still being maintained, so it is difficult to ensure the economy. Similarly, around 30%-50% of hotels in Lao Cai have witnessed the cancellation of their services. The number of foreigners travelling to Da Nang City has dropped by nearly 70% in the last month and is expected to continue to decrease.

Many travel businesses, especially tour operators, are likely to “sit on a fire” due to the economic losses caused by Covid-19. General Director of Viet Tourism Company, Tran Van Long, said that the difficulty that most travel businesses are facing is the cancellation of tours and the reclamation of deposits. Meanwhile, with the coming tours, enterprises have paid the related service costs to partners in advance. They had to take measures to prevent and fight against the epidemic, while resolving arising situations. It can be said that with the ‘freezing’ of tourism, enterprises seem to be in a crisis whose consequences can affect the sector in both short and medium terms.

Diversifying solutions

Tourism experts said that the number of tourists would decrease not only during the Covid-19 outbreak but also after the end of the epidemic. All countries that were affected by the epidemic will come up with strategies to engage with international visitors. Therefore, right now the tourism sector should proactively make action plans to recover the smokeless industry as soon as the epidemic passes through. To accomplish this goal, the Vietnam Tourism Association (VITA) has held an online conference to seek “solutions to limit the impact of acute respiratory infection caused by the new strain of Coronavirus on Vietnamese tourism”, with the participation of representatives from the Tourism Departments, the Departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Tourism Associations in the localities and travel agencies. Standing Vice President of VITA, Vu The Binh, affirmed that the calculation of measures to recover the market is the most urgent issue of the tourism sector at this time. The joint efforts of all localities, agencies, enterprises nationwide are very important. The experiences in handling the crisis caused by the epidemics proved that tourism should not depend solely on one market. Director of AZA Travel Company, Nguyen Tien Dat, emphasised that although the epidemic has affected the number of visitors, a more positive aspect is that this is an opportunity for enterprises to have time to restructure their customers and seek new markets as well as focus on training and improving the capacity of tour guides and developing attractive tours.

In the context of epidemic outbreak, enterprises should thoroughly grasp the situation of both domestic and international tourism markets. The provision of high-quality and professional travel information will create trust from visitors, especially foreigners. The immediate solution is the development of the domestic market. A representative from Da Nang Tourism Association noted that the domestic agencies should enhance the strong linkage to implement domestic tourism promotion strategies, including the reduction of fares for transportation, accommodation and destinations. Notably, it is crucial to pay strong attention to the full implementation of travel insurance for tourists to ensure the rights of travellers and limit the damages to enterprises when incidents occur.

VITA said that the domestic tourism promotion programmes will be boosted immediately. Vietnamese travel enterprises should be ready to actively join in promotion events at home and abroad to attract more visitors as soon as the epidemic is under control, not waiting for it to end. General Director of HanoiRedtours Company Nguyen Cong Hoan said that enterprises need accurate information on the epidemic to set plans to exploit and recover the markets, and want to know more about the resources from the State to support them, aiming to create effective promotion strategies.

In terms of the number of rooms and services available during the epidemic, the enterprises can join together to stimulate tourism to recover. In addition, it is essential to focus on activities to welcome foreign visitors to Vietnam and bring Vietnamese tourists to international markets which are not in the epidemic areas. In addition, tourism experts also noted that despite difficulties, the enterprises should retain their personnel through many activities, including professional training, upgrading infrastructures and renovating management work on the basis of 4.0 technology.

Standing Vice President of VITA, Vu The Binh, said that Association will coordinate with relevant agencies to propose the Government to set practical policies to support travel enterprises such as the exemption and reduction of taxes, utility bills, land tax and VAT. In addition, it is necessary to strengthen the close relationship with the tourism administrations in the foreign countries to promote the exchanges of visitors, firstly the implementation of agreements signed with ASTA and JATA to attract tourists from these two markets. VITA will also coordinate with training units and travel enterprises to organise training courses for key staff of enterprises and tourism associations in the localities.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) held a conference, themed “The tourism sector copes with the acute respiratory infection which is caused by a new strain of Corona virus”, to objectively and full assess the evolution of the disease caused by Covid-19 as well as forecast the extent of damage and losses caused by the disease to the tourism sector and propose measures to quickly restore Vietnam's tourism activities as soon as possible after the epidemic is controlled. The VNAT set many solutions, including those in terms of market, tourism promotion and communication. Accordingly, in addition to urgent and long-term measures, the tourism sector will pay attention to domestic and nearby markets with convenient air routes and high growth rates including the Republic of Korea, Japan, Taiwan (China) and ASEAN. The sector will also continue to exploit potential markets such as India, while enhancing the attraction of visitors from the North America, Western Europe and Northern Europe. The related agencies and enterprise will make efforts to affirm that Vietnam is a friendly and safe destination when the disease is controlled.