On Saturday morning July 25th, I woke up to the shocking news of the COVID-19 re-emerging in Vietnam when a new COVID-19 case within community was confirmed in my hometown, Danang city. This ended the 99 consecutive days of zero local transmission in Vietnam and quickly put the fragile recovery of domestic tourism into chaos. On Monday July 27th, 15 new cases had been confirmed and 80,000 tourists were to be evacuated immediately from Danang.
Tourism once again attracts negative headlines as many tourists were forced to cut their trips short, pay extra for returned flights and wait for hours in worry at the congested airport. Many others had to cancel their long-awaited summer holiday to the resort city, forgoing part or full amount of the pre-paid trips. Beyond negative impacts on tourists’ experiences, there is larger public concern regarding the mass movement of tourists from Danang to places all over Vietnam, with potential risks of spreading the infection further.
1. ‘To relax’ and ‘to feel a sense of family togetherness’ are the top two motivations for Vietnamese domestic tourists (Huong Thanh Bui & Lee Jolliffe, 2011). Vietnam domestic tourism is also dominated by incentive travel, where trips are paid and facilitated by employers or trade unions. These motivational factors can certainly be utilised to develop relevant backyard tourism products in Vietnam. Local resorts can target local companies to promote incentive trips, highlighting both leisure and team-building activities, as well as the benefits of reduced travel costs.
Inspiration can once again be found from Singapore, where tourism agencies are actively partnering with local foodies, photographers, nature groups and heritage groups, to help locals discover hidden gems. am. Local resorts can target local companies to promote incentive trips, highlighting both leisure and team-building activities, as well as the benefits of reduced travel costs.
2. With the increase in Vietnamese’s disposable income, most Vietnamese domestic travellers are seeking ‘value for money’ rather than low-cost travel. In other words, they are willing to pay a good price in exchange for quality experiences. There is thus great potentials to develop new niche tourism experiences that deliver a premium return, as opposed to focusing on mass tourism products with high volume but lower quality and often resulting in lower economic value.
3. Besides developing new products, adopting a discounted pricing strategy for locals across all tourist attractions can also contribute to stimulating backyard tourism.
Attractions such as Hoi An Impression Theme Park and Ba Na Hills Fantasy Park have been offering special pricing for locals to encourage their frequent visits for many years and recently in the past few months, many luxury hotel chains in Hanoi have been offering staycation packages for locals to enjoy tourism experience in their city at a reasonable price.
In addition, business model innovations such as annual membership/subscription-based distribution systems can help to both reduce the impacts of temporary demand changes and better integrate locals. Unsurprisingly, many theme parks and museums in the world have heavily discounted annual membership to local citizens. For hotels, a membership-based model also helps to eliminate the heavy commission fees associated with each booking.
Dr Giang Phi,
Assistant Professor in Tourism Innovation and Change at Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark