The emergence of unique tourism products within the wellness sector, particularly those focused on mindfulness, isolation, and nature reconciliation, could be just what Vietnam’s tourism needs to jumpstart itself after the industry’s COVID-19-induced halt.
COVID-19’s impacts on both mental wellness and the economy will lead to a massive shift in consumer behavior around the globe, according to Dr. Nguyen Thu Hanh, director of the Scientific Union for Sustainable Tourism Development (STDe).
Dr. Hanh predicts that this shift will be most apparent in the way humans interact with the natural environment.
He believes that tourists, for example, will no longer settle for simply consuming and exploiting the locales in which they travel and instead will gravitate toward slow-paced itineraries which focus on replenishing the environment.
Travel to grasp the cycle of life
To meet these behavioral shifts, Dr. Hanh suggests that tourism service providers remember that the industry will likely never return to ‘business as usual’ once the world emerges from the pandemic.
As such, those within the industry should facilitate new experiences centered on several common themes that seem to have risen to the forefront of consumers’ minds – positivity, mindfulness, self-control, and environmental awareness.
This new strain of travel experiences will help guide tourists away from overcrowded hotspots and toward peaceful, off-the-beaten-track locales where they are more likely to have an opportunity to support sustainable tourism.
Dr. Hanh’s vision for the future of Vietnam’s tourism looks heavily toward connecting visitors with their surroundings and tapping into their creativity through cooking, playing instruments, painting, crafting, fashion showcases, dancing, and other bonding activities.
Such opportunities will supply tourists with an opportunity to experience a ‘retreat of the mind,’ during which they can satisfy cravings for self-reflection and introspection on the virtues and transience of life as consolidated in Buddhist teachings.
This model of tourism, Dr. Hanh says, bears resemblance to Zen tourism in that its aim is to equip customers with resilience toward adversities in order to achieve inner peace.
Paying it forward toward nature
Infusing tourism with mindfulness is not a new concept in Vietnam.
Zen tour packages, such as one offered by Haydi Travel Co. Ltd., have been on offer since at least 2011.
Vu Tuan Phong, Haydi’s managing director, says his company’s package includes a two-day-one-night experience during which customers are asked to abstain from communication and social connection.
Though Haydi’s Zen tour target market is not huge, it has still amassed a dedicated and growing customer base.
According to Phong, Vietnamese tourism is now at a crossroads and the path it chooses to take will decide its success in rebounding from the fallout of COVID-19.
It is critical, Phong believes, to take this chance and capitalize on the potential of community-based tourism, ecotourism, and educational tourism for the youth.
Dr. Tran Xuan Hieu, vice-director of STDe, shares Phong’s view.
Dr. Hieu speculates that the post-coronavirus world will give rise to mindfulness and slow-paced practices, as well as an upsurge in the desire to return to nature.
These features are already being seen in the way younger Vietnamese embrace environmental activism through activities such as tree planting and biodiversity and ecosystem protection movements.
Looking to meet the changing needs of the market, Pys Travel Co. Ltd. from Hanoi has already launched ecotourism trips which invite customers to experience foresting activities first-hand.