Roadmap and Solutions for Vietnam Tourism Recovery

8:20:37 AM | 1/17/2022

Resolution No. 128/NQ-CP together with agendas and seminars to find a new direction for Vietnam’s tourism has brought hope to the hospitality industry after two years of tough challenges.

Tourism bears brunt of Covid-19 pandemic

As the world's hospitality industry is struggling, Vietnam's hospitality industry has had a quiet development for the last two years. Being in the energetic acceleration momentum of 2019, in 2020, Vietnam's hospitality industry seems to have hit the bottom because of Covid-19 when it lost 80% of international visitors; 50% of domestic tourists; and suffered a loss of VND530 trillion. However, that was just the beginning of the next recession period when consecutive outbreaks of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021 made it worse for the tourism industry. Many consecutive stimulus programs were started and then had to stop, the whole industry fell into a "freezing" state. The number of domestic tourists in the first 10 months of 2021 reached about 32.3 million (only 44.7% compared to the same period in 2019). A recent survey by the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) shows that up to 18% of businesses have laid off all employees; 48% of businesses have laid off 50-80% of their employees and 75% of businesses have offered financial support for unemployed workers.

How to recover the hospitality industry has become a concern of regulators, experts and tour operators. Resolution 128/NQ-CP of the Government provided temporary regulations on safe, flexible adaptation and effective control of the Covid-19 pandemic. Vietnam has officially welcomed international visitors for the first time after nearly two years of closure. "We have not seen such excitement in the tourism industry for a long time," said Director-General of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Nguyen Trung Khanh.  This not only creates the joy of welcoming international visitors for the first time, a sense of normalcy for tourism activities, but also a preparation for a new spirit, so that tour operators can confidently move forward, best prepare for the recovery and build the resilience of the smokeless industry.

What scenario for the tourism industry?

Revitalizing the tourism industry in a new context is a topic that regulators, experts and tour operators are interested in. At forums on tourism recovery and development, delegates raised many issues such as how has Vietnam changed its status? How to prepare posture, profession, knowledge to change? What is the new normal?

According to Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Doan Van Viet, the recovery of tourism in the coming period sets out five perspectives, key principles, goal orientation, tasks, solutions and the implementation roadmap including opening up, restoring tourism in association with pandemic prevention and control; risk and crisis management and the implementation of Resolution 128. Accordingly, it is important to promote and ensure the overall recovery on both supply and demand of tourism activities. The tourism industry will consider the restructuring of the tourism industry as a key task, focusing on synchronous implementation to accelerate the recovery process, taking advantage of opportunities and creating a breakthrough for the new period. It will promote linkage to improve the internal capacity and the industry’s self-reliance; and in the immediate future, foster the development of domestic tourism as an internal force and a basic foundation for sustainable tourism development.

The implementation roadmap will be divided into two phases with priority tasks and solutions. The first phase includes reopening domestic and international tourism (from the end of 2021 to the first half of 2022). This requires opening and stabilizing, ensuring the safety of the destinations, piloting the return of international tourists, restoring domestic tourism activities, supporting workers, businesses and preparing public investment. The second phase includes recovery and development to reach pre-Covid-19 levels (from the second half of 2022, possibly lasting one to two years) which require supporting businesses, implementing public and social investment projects to create a medium and long-term growth engine for the industry.

According to Mr. Pham Tien Dung, Vice President of UNESCO Hanoi Travel Club, localities and businesses need to renew their activities to suit tourism in the new context.

 “In the new context, safety is a top priority, in which it is necessary to pay attention to the safety of visitors, employees and residential community. Besides, travel businesses need to better understand customers as they have now completely changed their way of traveling. Instead of going in a large group, they prefer to go in a small group, a family and a safe bubble tour. MICE tourism, health care services, culinary products need more attention. Therefore, tourism products of enterprises also need to be innovated in the direction of technology and safety,” Mr. Dung shared.

In addition to the strategy, vision, and solutions for tourism recovery and development in the coming time, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam requested that it was urgent to digitize tourism resources; and it was important to organize the implementation well and effectively to recover tourism development.

 “We should not be too hasty, but need to prepare carefully, step by step like the current pilot projects in Phu Quoc (Kien Giang province), Khanh Hoa, and Quang Nam provinces. Opening and closing tourism are more dangerous than preparing and opening with certainty. In the coming time, along with prioritizing the third dose of Covid-19 vaccination for the entire population, in order to prevent the threat from the new strain of Omicron, the tourism industry needs to reinvent itself, to be ready to welcome guests," Deputy Prime Minister emphasized.

Support and training is needed to prevent labor disruption

Mr. Nguyen Quoc Ky - Chairman of the Board of Directors of Vietravel

According to national statistics, there are about 4.9 million employees working in the hospitality sector, not to mention those in related fields. However, recently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this force has shrunk and tends to shift to other areas.

Therefore, in order for tourism to revive soon, businesses must find ways to retain their workers and need to be financially supported by the Government. It is essential to have policies to support unemployed workers so that they do not leave the industry. Therefore, it is proposed to support businesses with a 0% interest loan package to pay salaries to employees to maintain human resources.

It is necessary to have policies to support, train and create jobs so as not to cause labor disruption in the tourism industry. This is a mandatory requirement because the workforce is specific and specialized, trained and issued with licenses.

Repositioning, making an adequate investment for promotion

Mr. Nguyen Chau A, General Director of Oxalis Adventure Company

Vietnam needs to reposition its tourism position and strengths, including the following areas: culture, history; nature tourism, resort tourism; sports tourism and other fields suitable to the tastes and characteristics of the target tourist markets as well as to specify the scope and scale, implement the development strategy in accordance with the potential market.

In addition, Vietnam needs to have a strategy to promote the image of Vietnam's destination to the world to keep up with current technology trends. Adequate investment is needed for the tourism industry to increase awareness in target markets, in order to create tourism demand to help businesses sell their products to customers.

Finally, tourism is a composite sector and to develop, it is necessary to synchronize technical infrastructure, tourism development policies and related industries, especially the service industry and other related supporting industries. It is proposed that the Government, ministries and sectors have policies to support and give incentives to tourism development to mobilize resources from both public and private investment to develop tourism.

 By Thu Huyen, Vietnam Business Forum