The Vietnamese government, ministries, agencies, and travel companies, share the same dilemma — the lack of concrete regulations is keeping the country from welcoming back foreign tourists.When governments issued movement constraints and halted travel, airports became ghost towns. Aircraft were grounded, flights were canceled and everyone had no choice but to stay put.
Internationally, air travel between New Zealand and Australia was made possible for the first time since March 2020 with the opening of the much-anticipated trans-Tasman travel bubble, leading to a rush in travel bookings between the two countries.
In Vietnam, airports have started buzzing again. People are back at putting their seats and tray tables in upright positions as air travel regains momentum. Reports about airport congestion and a spike in holiday bookings are receipts that the country’s travel sector is heading towards recovery.
Earlier this week, Vietnam’s busiest airport, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, was crowded and passengers had to queue for hours to check-in. The airport was forced to add more staff, open early check-in counters, and use all available security scanners to reduce congestion.
In fact, some passengers missed their flights because of the strict measures before being allowed to fly. All these happened on a normal Monday, no holiday, no special festivity.
But with the upcoming Reunification Day and May Day holiday - a long weekend - the travel demand has increased. Major tour agencies are receiving thousands of bookings on a daily basis, completing 80% of their sales quota for the holidays.
Some of the most popular destinations are Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Lat, Da Nang, Vung Tau, Nha Trang, Sapa, and Mui Ne. As expected, beach destinations are preferred for the summer.
In March, Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board and VnExpress.net conducted a survey among 3,500 respondents on their travel plans this year. More than 50% said they had plans to travel between May and September, while 30% said as early as March and April.
Last year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism launched the “Vietnamese people travel to Vietnamese destinations” campaign, encouraging locals to travel domestically and support local businesses after social distancing measures were eased.
Deputy Director General of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Ha Van Sieu said, “local visitors had an enthusiastic response to the ministry’s stimulus campaign as they were well informed of new tourism products and that the tourism sector was ready to welcome visitors once again.” But because of the outbreak in January, domestic travel was put on hold yet again.
Nevertheless, Vietnam will continue to capitalize on domestic tourism this year until 2023 and new tourism products will be developed in preparation for the return of international tourism in the “new normal”.
According to McKinsey & Company’s Future of Vietnam series, the country can jumpstart its recovery sooner. And it is indeed showing. However, focusing on domestic travelers is not enough, its tourism board must also consider new pricing models and travel bubbles.
A recovering travel industry
Putting up more campaigns to encourage domestic travels is easy. Modifying the pricing models and opening travel bubbles are possible. The challenge is securing everyone’s safety and providing a smooth transition to do all those.
Problem is, now that countries like Thailand decided to set the ball rolling either with vaccine passports that allow vaccinated visitors to skip quarantine, countries that aren’t doing the same are seen as slacking.
The Vietnamese government, ministries, agencies, and travel companies, share the same dilemma — the lack of concrete regulations is keeping the country from welcoming back foreign tourists.
Ensuring safety during the re-opening requires thorough preparations and the chairman of the National Tourism Advisory Board, Tran Trong Kien, strongly agrees.
The state management agencies need to set up a roadmap and criteria to receive international guests as well as building standards on COVID-19 vaccination and examination before flights and after entering Vietnam, Chairman Kien told Hanoitimes.
“The reopening of borders to international travel and tourism will not only need efforts from the business community, but also require policymakers to build concrete regulations – an essential move for businesses,” Chairman Kien said.
Not only the government but also the private sector is doing initiatives to further help the tourism industry to recover. Matter of fact, many travel agencies have recently organized programs to bring foreign investors and experts to the country under charter flight.
Vietravel has rented the whole flight KE 683 of Korean Air to carry leading experts and senior managers from the UK, Sweden, Poland, German, Canada, the US and Spain to Vietnam. Some other companies, including Viet Foot Travel, Flamingo Redtour and Sun Smile Travel, have recently offered a package of tourism products targeting mainland China and Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, reads a Hanoitimes report.
Secretary General of the Tourism Advisory Board, Hoang Nhan Chinh, said in a letter to the government that the board strongly supports the government’s policy of not trading public health for economic benefit.
Delaying border reopenings may continue to hurt the economy. But looking further into the future, securing citizens’ health and safety brings more advantages.