Duc Minh – Anh Thu
Boosting domestic tourism to offset the loss of international tourism revenue is the way to go, but there’s much to be done to get the industry back on track.
The international news is full of articles praising Vietnam as one of the countries to best control of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many international tourism experts agree that Vietnam is in good shape to recover faster than many other countries, thanks to its “Covid-19-free community”.
To date, Vietnam has an impressive record of merely just over 300 Covid-19 cases, no deaths, and approximately two months with no new cases of community transmission. The Politico (USA) ranked Vietnam first out of the top 30 nations and territories in terms of its pandemic prevention capacity. Travel + Leisure (USA) put Vietnam in first place out of 17 “destinations not to miss” when Covid-19 is over.
While international tourism still struggles as nations remain alert for a “second wave”, domestic tourism has become a “lifeline” for Vietnam’s hard-hit tourism industry. The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism reported that from February to April 2020, Vietnam’s tourism industry suffered a loss of 7.7 billion USD, with tens of thousands of workers laid off.
At present, Vietnam’s tourism, aviation, and railway companies are gearing toward the domestic market at “full throttle”, so as to make up for lost revenues derived from over 10 million international tourism arrivals last year. Domestic tours are being offered at unbeatable prices, up to half price as before. Nonetheless, it seems that more than just low prices are needed to attract domestic tourists, who used to come second after “foreign tourists”.
There’s no doubt that the domestic tourism market would collapse if a second wave of infection were to occur. Therefore, a “Covid-19-free community” is the first prerequisite for the domestic market to recuperate, making it a top priority. In fact, many tours with low or even ridiculously cheap prices were offered from April, yet there were few takers. According to Vietnam Airlines’ statistics, the number of domestic passengers has recovered up to more than 90% of the pre-pandemic traffic, showing that passengers are “less afraid to fly”! However, the risk of infection from international visitors and border trespassers still lingers. Thus, strict border control still remains a top priority for all provinces.
Unite to move forward
Many tour operators view the “See you in Danang” and “Danang thank you 2020” campaigns as ideal models of cooperation between the government and private sector. In Danang, more than 150 companies are promoting the “Danang thank you 2020” campaign via low-priced tour packages and good services. Meanwhile, local government is thanking tourists for visiting this seaside city. Danang has also joined Hue and Quang Nam’s efforts to further appeal to visitors.
Despite it all, Danang’s measures are not that popular. In other places, tour operators and travel agencies remain alone in undertaking market promotion, while local government support remains lackluster, despite the potential of a strong revenue stream from tourism and the rise of domestic travel this year.
“The Vietnamese Travel Intent Post Covid-19 Report” by Outbox Consulting, an in-depth tourism consultant agency based in Ho Chi Minh City, reveals that Vietnamese tourists will choose domestic (57%) rather than international destinations (12%) for the second half of 2020. July and August remain the peak months for travel plans.
As well as having to work alone and bear marketing costs, some missions are simply impossible for tour operators. For years, not a single tourism high season has passed without news stories of “rip-offs” and “price-gouging” for everything from parking feels to bowls of soup to “tasteless million-dong meals”. Bad service and overcharging at small local eateries’ upset visitors. Supposedly “low-cost” tours may have hidden fees, resulting in high costs and bad experiences.
The government is urging local authorities to support the tourism industry in many ways, such as: lowering taxes and charges; proposing alternative plans for student holidays and summer breaks; and stimulating demand and strengthening ties between State authorities and localities so that tour operators no longer have to “walk alone”.
Now that the green light is on, each locality must take timely actions so as not to miss the seasonal peak.
Let the doors open wide
China has been successful with its night-time economy as people go to bed later, leading to a post-pandemic rise in late-night food orders and commercial transactions.
Tourists have a limited amount of time at their destinations. Thus, they want to hang out later and make the most of their time. Unfortunately, despite many efforts, restaurants and shops in various provinces and cities are required to close by 11pm. The public loudspeakers in Hoi An still urge visitors to leave the Old Town at 21:00 every night!