The tourism industry has been starting to show the first signs of resumption around the world since the second half of 2021, along with expectations of recovery in the near future. However, it is certain that the tourism market is no longer the same because of the changes in travelers’ psychology, behaviors, and policies for tourism in each destination.

Destination Review had an opportunity to talk with Mr. Nguyen Thanh Long – General Manager of Galileo Vietnam (Travelport Official Partner in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), about the shift in travel trends as well as prospects for Vietnam tourism recovery in the future.

In my opinion, the biggest trend of tourism will be the use of vaccine passports for travel between countries, besides the entry visa as before. In addition, the regulations on epidemic prevention and control in countries will also greatly affect the upcoming travel trends. For example, some destinations only allow travelers from certain countries to enter.

Therefore, this new normal period will be closely related to the policies of each countries. In fact, governments in the world are also developing policies for the new normal, but it also depends on the pandemic situation and vaccination deployment. These policies will have a great impact on travel trends in the future.

Currently, the resilience of the tourism industry is assessed based on the pre-epidemic data of 2019. North America and Canada are the regions with the fastest recovery, about 60% of the level of 2019. The second rival is South America with a recovery rate of about 50%. Europe, the Middle East and Africa reach about 40%. Meanwhile, Asia and Australia are the regions with the lowest level of recovery, around 25%. According to Travelport data, compared to the same period in 2020, the recovery level of tourism in 2021 has increased quite a bit.

The groups of travelers contributing to this recovery are mainly domestic travelers and international travelers traveling short-haul within the same geographic area, such as between countries within Europe. For transcontinental travelers, the level of recovery is not significant.

I believe that the desire to travel is unchanged, even greatly increased during the pandemic. However, the ability of travelers to return immediately to the way they were pre-pandemic depends on many other factors, for example, their income. In developed countries like the US or Europe, the governments have provided good support so people still have savings, they can travel immediately after the pandemic. It can be clearly seen that domestic flights in the US have been filled when resuming.

We are still saying that life post-pandemic can return to normal, but it will be a “new normal”. Therefore, the demand for travel is still there but the travel behavior will definitely be changed. Firstly, travelers will definitely pay more attention to safety. Besides, they will prefer near destinations with shorter-haul flights, or road trips by car on weekends, which are more convenient and easy to comply with epidemic prevention regulations. For group tours, the size of the group will also change. Group tours used to be a few dozen people before, now the number of tourists in a group will be less, maybe according to the size of a family.

For service selection, there is a trend that has started before and is growing during the pandemic, which is buying airline tickets and tourism products online. The need to go online to search and buy tourism products will increase.

In addition, in the current context, traveling has to come with a lot of other issues such as Covid-testing, travel insurance, flight insurance, vaccine passport, activities to comply with safety regulations in the destination, etc. Therefore, travelers will pay more attention to these products and look for tourism companies and travel agents that can provide full information and services.

The basic principle is that tourism companies must catch up with the changes in customers’ shopping behavior, and their expectations about travel packages, such as by focusing more on the website, improving the process of booking services online, or diversifying products. In the past, there were many travel agents that only focused on selling air tickets. But now agents can hardly sell only air tickets but must provide additional products such as hotel rooms, insurance, etc so that travelers can easily buy a service package that meets all needs.

In my point of view, to do this, the important factors are technology and people. With technology, travel agents should build a better sales platform with tools to help customers search and book services online more conveniently. And to provide diverse packages to fully meet the needs of travelers, travel agents also need a sales and management system that is simple to use and connects to airlines and hotels worldwide accurately and fast. The second factor is people, including business leaders with the vision and right direction and a well-trained team.

Currently, if we compare Vietnamese and foreign travel businesses in terms of selling online, we are losing at our home yard when the leading online sales sites in aviation and tourism in Vietnam are foreign sites. And the simple reason for that is they have stronger capital. For Vietnamese businesses, technology – people – capital is a complex matter, who can solve this matter well will have a chance to survive during the pandemic, otherwise they will be eliminated. With the shift in the shopping behavior of travelers, I believe travel agents will have to focus more on this online shopping trend in the future.

In my opinion, saying that tourism businesses during the pandemic have lost trust from travelers is a bit unfair to them. Looking at the websites of travel agencies, and even airlines, we can see a series of 1-star and 2-star reviews during the pandemic. But we must be more objective about the reasons why travel agents are rated like that. For example, when a flight is canceled, depending on the airline’s policy, the canceled flight may not be refunded as quickly as before, or the airline refunds with vouchers or coupons. If the airline does not refund to travel agents first, the travel agents cannot refund to the customer. It’s just one example to see the reason why travel agents have lost trust from travelers during the pandemic are inadequate.

However, it is clear that this will affect the trust of travelers. There is no other way but to do it again together, investing in technology, people, and the working process to restore operations and rebuild trust from travelers.

In terms of tourists, I think that there will be a very popular type of travelers who travel for visiting relatives. Families have not seen each other for a long time, travelers between other countries and Vietnam, and travelers between provinces and cities in Vietnam have a great need to visit relatives and I think this group of travelers will contribute a lot to the sector’s recovery.

Assessing the recovery prospects of Vietnam’s tourism, in my opinion, it should be divided into 3 groups:

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