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Vietnam seeks to attract tourists from coronavirus-safe countries

Monday, June 01, 2020, 20:29 GMT+7
Vietnam seeks to attract tourists from coronavirus-safe countries
Visitors watch an outdoor performance at Ba Na Hills in Da Nang, Vietnam in this undated file photo. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The Vietnamese tourism ministry has been tasked with drawing up plans to attract foreign tourists from countries that have kept novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at bay, according to a government resolution last week.

In the resolution issued on May 29, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc assigned the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism the task of formulating programs and schemes to promote Vietnam’s tourism and new services to both domestic and international visitors.

In the foreseeable future, the country shall focus on luring tourists from countries where the viral disease has been contained, the resolution reads.

In response to the new government resolution, Don Lam, chairman of Vietnamese investment and asset management firm VinaCapital, suggested a tour model dubbed ‘safe haven tourism’ to turn the inbound tourism sector around.

In Lam’s proposal, foreign tourists will be tested for COVID-19 before boarding charter flights to designated, isolated destinations in Vietnam, such as the country’s many idyllic islands.

International visitors will participate in outdoor activities such as sunbathing and water sports while being checked for COVID-19 regularly during their stay.

Staff at these places will receive training in epidemic prevention with food supply and room hygiene procedures.

Lam’s idea has so far got approvals from many experts in the industry.

Pham Ha, CEO of Ho Chi Minh City-based Luxury Travel Ltd., said that the demand for such ‘isolated tours’ is high, citing opinions his company had collected from international customers for similar offers scheduled for this September and October.

Ha believes this tour model is the only way to bring international tourists back to Vietnam at the earliest.

According to the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, up to 19,587 tourism workers were furloughed, 830 lost their jobs, while the remaining worked in rotation in the first quarter of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic froze tourism activities nationwide.

Visitors play paddling at Tam Giang Lagoon, Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam in this undated file photo. Photo: Minh Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors play paddling at Tam Giang Lagoon, Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam in this undated file photo. Photo: Minh Thanh / Tuoi Tre

More than 90 percent of tour guides at the Vietnam Tour Guide Operations Center have suffered the same fate, having to earn their living from other temporary jobs, according to its director Tran Thi Viet Huong.

Vietnam welcomed 18 million international tourists while serving 85 million domestic customers in 2019, according to the General Statistics Office.

The country’s total revenue from both international and domestic tourists last year reached VND726 trillion (US$31.2 billion).

COVID-19 hammered the industry with border closures, flight suspensions, and entry bans, with the domestic market only reopening from May and the international sector remaining closed indefinitely.

“Our customers were mainly international tourists and business people, but both groups are currently unavailable,” said Hoang, a restaurant manager in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, where only 40 percent of employees remain active.

Hoang said her restaurant would not be able to employ more staff until September, when it anticipates that its main sources of customers will resume.

Ngo Minh Duc, chairman of Hospitality Group (HG) Holdings, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that his firm has moved parts of its staff in charge of international customers to the domestic sector in light of the indefinite entry ban on foreigners.

“The domestic market is only a part of the firm’s activities, while our high-end services mainly cater for foreign customers. The operations of our firm will remain deficient as long as this tourist group is absent,” Duc said.

The HG chairman hopes that international routes connecting Vietnam and countries and territories that have effectively controlled COVID-19 like South Korea and Taiwan can be resumed in July to warm up the Southeast Asian country’s foreign tourist market.

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