After nearly 2 years of heavy damage from the Covid 19 epidemic, Vietnam’s tourism industry has started to show positive signs to be ready to recover in 2022.
According to statistics, in 2020 and 2021, the “smokeless industry” in Vietnam has recorded huge declines such as a decrease in the number of international visitors by 80-90%, a series of businesses and travel agents had to close, and many people lost their jobs,… From an industry with over double-digit growth, making an important contribution with more than 9% to the country’s GDP, the tourism industry has suffered heavy impacts and been nearly “freezing”.
However, overcoming those challenges, in the final months of 2021, Vietnam is steering to open up opportunities for recovery in 2022. In early September 2021, the Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism issued a recovery plan with policies and measures to focus on domestic tourism. It is important to restart tourism activities even on a small scale and gradually overcome difficulties in the new normal context. At the end of November 2021, Vietnam also started piloting the return of international tourists in some key tourist areas, opening up great opportunities for the tourism industry to develop in the next period.
Domestic tourism is the impetus
Due to the complicated situation of the global epidemic situation as well as the reality of border opening in some regions, it can be seen that domestic tourism is still the foundation for tourism recovery in the near future. According to the latest forecast in 10/2021 of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), global domestic spending is projected to rise by 24.3% in 2022.
After 4 months of being “frozen”, from the end of October 2021, tourism activities in Vietnam have been reopening with the requirement to temporarily implement the guidelines in the new context. Specifically, at all 4 levels of the epidemic, tourism is allowed to operate but on a certain scale. In particular, tourists do not need to be tested for Covid, unless the epidemiological investigation comes from level 3 and 4 areas or has symptoms of cough, fever, sore throat, etc. After more than a month of implementation, the tourism industry has shown signs of prosperity again with the total number of domestic tourists in November reaching 2.5 million arrivals, an increase of more than 3 times compared to October (750,000 arrivals) and 9 times compared to September (300,000 arrivals). This shows a strong recovery of the domestic market as soon as tourism can be reopened.
Realizing the great potential of this segment, the Vietnam Government has also assigned the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam to assume the prime responsibility and coordinate with other localities to continue to have solutions to promote domestic tourism in association with safety during the epidemic, especially on Christmas, New Year 2022 and Lunar New Year. The promotion of tourism products during this period is not only a lever to trigger the recovery, but also an opportunity for businesses and tourists to gradually adapt to the new context.
On December 16, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam issued a program to launch domestic tourism safely, flexibly, and effectively control the COVID-19 epidemic with the theme “Safe travel- Full experience”. This program has been contributing to gradually recovering the tourism industry, meeting the people’s demand for sightseeing, tourism and relaxation; at the same time, introducing and promoting diverse and attractive tourist destinations, products and experiences, ensuring safety for epidemic prevention and control, and restoring the market’s confidence in safe and attractive domestic tourism.
However, due to the complicated situation of the epidemic in the country in the past 2-3 weeks, strong recovery of tourism at the beginning of the year is not a satisfactory plan. According to the measurement results of “Vietnamese Travel Sentiment” by Outbox Consulting, the time when Vietnamese tourists are ready to travel again will be from March to June 2022. Therefore, destinations and businesses need to have appropriate promotions and business plans to anticipate tourism demand in that period.
Step by step reopening the international door
In parallel with domestic tourism recovery, reopening international tourism is a difficult but important issue to be solved by Vietnam’s tourism industry.
According to the approved roadmap, Vietnam is currently in phase 1 of piloting international arrivals under package tourism programs in five localities: Phu Quoc (Kien Giang), Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang, and Quang Ninh. This phase has been implemented since the end of November 2021 to measure and prepare for phase 2 to open more widely from January 2022.
In order to promote the reopening of Vietnam, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism has launched a media campaign to attract international visitors called “Live fully in Vietnam” to widely communicate the pilot program of welcoming international tourism, aiming to fully reopen in 2022. Information about this campaign will be continuously updated on the website vietnam.travel and promotional videos will also be promoted on domestic and international media channels.
However, the results achieved after nearly a month of opening international tourism of Vietnam is still quite modest. As of December 6, the number of international tourists welcomed was 1,179. We need to review many issues and barriers such as whether the general application conditions for tourists are really convenient and attractive or the promotion of the Vietnam destination image is competitive enough compared to other vicinity destinations.
An important condition for international tourism to return is that aviation also needs to open, international direct flights must be ready to serve tourists. On December 10, the Vietnam Government agreed to resume regular international flights with high safety factors such as Beijing/Guangzhou, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, San Francisco/Los Angeles,…This is a positive signal for the return of tourists from Vietnam’s key markets next year. However, regulations on epidemic prevention and entry to ensure safety, efficiency and smoothness also need to be quickly applied. Moreover, there should be consensus on criteria and conditions for safe arrival of tourists between localities and the link between tourist areas and localities that are close to each other or share epidemiological factors.
On the other hand, at present, the plan to welcome international tourists is only being applied via charter flights, and there are no guidelines for picking up international tourists via land and ocean. This is also a point worth noting when cruise tourism has great potential in welcoming international tourists back. It can be seen that in the past time, more than 30 countries and territories have restored ocean tourism activities, preparing conditions to welcome cruise ships docked after the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic. In particular, international cruise lines have prepared plans to exploit passengers in the next 2-3 years.
Hold 2 rowers safely & steadily
Whether opening up to international or domestic tourism, one thing is for sure that 2022 will be a year where “safety” and “flexibility” factors still have to be on top. Although the epidemic is gradually being controlled, according to many experts and international organizations, the COVID-19 still has unpredictable risks, forcing the tourism industry to research solutions to restore tourism in a thorough and appropriate manner.
As for the international opening, Vietnam still follows the roadmap to gradually return. Phase 2 from January 1, 2022 will expand the reception area. Currently, Binh Dinh province and Ho Chi Minh City have plans to participate in piloting international arrivals during this period. In addition, international tourists in phase 2 can also participate in tourism programs combining multiple destinations after the tour program at the first destination for a period of 7 days.
Furthermore, to be able to recover stably next year, the option of receiving international passengers via sea and land needs to be considered in addition to the resumption of international flights. Starting to re-exploit outbound tourists to markets that allow Vietnamese tourists is also an option worthy of attention.
In general, although it is urgent to welcome tourists back in the new context, it is still necessary to be cautious. Localities and businesses should not choose too many destinations to promote and welcome guests but need to be selective and focused. At the same time, each destination and business also need to publicize the regulations and conditions for welcoming and serving tourists clearly. Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Doan Van Viet said that 2022 is still a challenging year for the tourism industry, so it is necessary to promote the leverage role in some major tourist centers. Vietnam tourism will continue to focus on exploiting the domestic tourism market; putting safety on the top, and at the same time bringing a truly impressive and unforgettable experience for visitors.