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Vietnam’s aviation, tourism hammered by COVID-19

Friday, March 20, 2020, 13:57 GMT+7
Vietnam’s aviation, tourism hammered by COVID-19
A woman waits as her passport is inspected by a customs officer at a near-empty customs area at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, March 18, 2020. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

The impacts of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic are being felt across airports and the tourist industry in Vietnam, as flights have been canceled and travel warnings increase amidst the ongoing pandemic.

The majority of travelers in Vietnam’s international airports are overseas Vietnamese returning to the country to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks.

A total of 318 international flights took off from or landed at airports in Vietnam on Wednesday.

About 1,095 passengers on those flights arrived in Vietnam from Europe, including 999 Vietnamese citizens and 96 foreigners.

Most of the foreign nationals are of Vietnamese origin seeking to ‘run away’ from COVID-19 epicenters in Europe.

Likewise, Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi received 770 Vietnamese passengers out of nearly 1,000 arrivals from COVID-19-hit areas on March 15.

At Da Nang International Airport in the namesake central city, the number of international flights dropped from more than 160 flights on a regular day to fewer than 30 on Wednesday.

“There are almost no foreign passengers. We’re lucky if we get to pick up even some Vietnamese guests,” said Nguyen Van Ba, a taxi driver who typically waits for fares at the airdrome’s international terminal.

Domestic tourism is also suffering the same fate, as Vietnam began suspending its visa issuance to all foreigners for 30 days from Wednesday to deal with the increasingly serious epidemic caused by COVID-19.

Tour operators across the country have had to cancel trips or prepare arrangements to send foreign customers home in light of recently enacted travel restrictions.

Tran Xuan Hung, chairman of Viking Tourism Company, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that his firm canceled a MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) tour booked by a group of 35 Indonesian customers on Tuesday after it was announced all passengers from ASEAN countries would be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in Vietnam.

Staff keep occupied on their smartphones while customers remain sparce at Da Nang International Airport in Vietnam in this undated photo. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre

Staff keep occupied on their smartphones while customers remain sparse at Da Nang International Airport in Vietnam in this undated photo. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre

Tran Ngoc Toan, director of Images Travel Company, said that his firm is arranging to send 285 European tourists home.

“The tourists still enjoyed traveling in Vietnam but their itinerary changed a lot,” Toan told Tuoi Tre.

Likewise, Tran Thi Bao Thu, director of marketing communications for tour operator Fiditour, said the company had to charter a flight to send a group of 80 Polish tourists visiting northern provinces home on Thursday.

According to Vuu Chan Hung, vice-chairman of the Mekong Delta Tourism Association, the number of visitors to the region had plummeted by 80 percent as of Wednesday.

Attractions and entertainment facilities in Mekong Delta localities have been requested to cease operations.

As a result, local hotels and accommodation establishments have been left completely unoccupied, putting many on the verge of closing down.  

Tour operators said they were trying to negotiate with partners to minimize damage, while seeking ways to adapt to the new situation.

Tran The Dung, deputy general director of Young Generation Tourism Company, said his staff are still working on tour plans for June and July, when experts expect the epidemic to be contained.

“We will still provide travel consultancy services to customers while waiting until the outbreak is controlled and the tourist industry recovers,” said Dung.

According to a leader of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), the organization is giving top priority to fighting against the COVID-19 epidemic while preparing activities for the tourism market to make a return in the near future.

“We will continue to propose packages to support tourism businesses during this hard time,” the VNAT leader said.

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