Vietnam’s domestic tourism market has started to move on after a long time of respite due to the second attack of the coronavirus in late July. However, most players in the field are keeping a prudent attitude, only booking services in accordance with their confirmed orders. Few have dared to make wholesale orders the way they did before.
Different from the absolute confidence prior to the return of Covid-19, the tourism circle in Vietnam is much more cautious now about what would become of the domestic tourism market in the coming time. Although guests are returning, the fear that the pandemic may come back at any time and the worry about the purchasing power being affected as customers cut spending as well as their own financial constraints are barring the majority of tourist companies from making large orders.
“We should have finished the advancement for flight tickets and hotels for Tet (Lunar New Year) by now,” says the general director of a travel agency in District 1, HCMC. “But we have done nothing yet.”
Financial constrains after a long time of flat business have forced many tour operators not to pay for advancement of services although their partners, principally air carriers and hotels, are anxious and impatient.
“Early advancement requires a middle-size company to pay several billions of dong and a big one tens of billions of dong,” says the general director. “Nobody would do that now.”
Nguyen Ngoc An, deputy director of Fiditour, a travel service, shares what his colleagues thinks. He says Fiditour began to receive customers again in mid-September. But it remains too early at present to forecast what the market would be like. Therefore, the preparations for the services in the future, particularly for the two most important occasions, the Gregorian calendar New Year and the Lunar New Year, is just for form’s sake.
“We have received guests again and have prepared some services for the Lunar New Year,” says An. “However, we don’t dare to take it for granted. The market has just reopened for a short time.”
Some other bosses also say that although they desperately want to have services ready to offer the best prices to domestic travelers, the most important segment for the time being, they just look at what their counterparts and rivals are doing. Few have made a decision. This “status quo” may nonetheless change when September comes to an end and if pandemic can be well contained as it is now.
Safety is the first priority
On September 18, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism launched a stimulus program for domestic tourism designed for the last months of this year. The focus of this program is “Safe and Sound Travel in Vietnam,” which aims at domestic travelers and expatriates living in the country. To maximize the effects of the program, tourist companies have set up stimulus alliances to create products at reasonable prices, put into use the best safety measures and enhance communication on safe travel.
Speaking of the issue, people working in the tourism sector contend that following the second wave of the coronavirus in Vietnam, safety has become more important than ever in attracting customers again. Subsequently, that tourism authorities have emphasized the communication on safe destinations in this stimulus campaign and set up digital maps of infected areas and safe zones is necessary for spurring growth of the domestic market.
“Tourists will travel again if the pandemic is well contained and destinations are safe,” says Nguyen Huu Y Yen, general director of Saigontourist Travel Service. Yen insists that better communication on safe destinations will render the market more optimistic.
Addressing the question as to the market segments that are most likely to recover after the second wave of the coronavirus, Yen says currently it seems that the corporate segment may be the most promising.
At Saigontourist Travel Service, old customers have retained their contracts and new customers are coming in, Yen says. The new guests are companies placing orders for their staff in the coming time.
Meanwhile, some tour operators dealing with cruise ship passengers and accommodation highly appreciate the segments of walk-in guests and travelers making trips on their own. A case in point is Luxury Travel Group whose customers of these categories filled all the seats of tourist boats on Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island last week.
Building digital maps of infected and safe zones
In a recent move, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has just proposed many urgent measures to the Prime Minister for supporting tourist firms and their labor force in withstanding difficulties caused by Covid-19.
Of these proposals, aside from measures related to finance and taxes, the ministry suggested it would coordinate with the ministries of Information and Communication and of Health in building an app on Vietnam’s safe travel and a digital map of infected and safe zones.
The ministry argues that the digital map will make aviation and tourist companies more convenient to build their sales plans. Travelers will find the map useful, too, says the ministry.
By Dao Loan