VGP – By resuming pre-pandemic visa exemptions, visa issuance and lifting mandatory quarantine requirement upon arrival, Viet Nam eyes to fully revitalize its tourism industry.
Reopening fully …
From paddling throughout the most beautiful bays in South East Asia to exploring the biggest cave in the world, from navigating floating markets in the lower Mekong Delta to exploring hundred-year-old villages in the Red River Delta, and learning the rich gastronomy as well as experiencing traditional crafts, Viet Nam offers countless of unique tourist experiences for travelers. This land of miracle officially and fully reopened for tourism a week ago, after 2 years of strict pandemic entry requirements.
An updated approach from the Government on how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and a successful vaccination campaign played an important role on the most expected decision for the benefit of the economy in general and for tourist sector in particular. This sector has been left in terrible shape, affecting everyone from airlines and operators to hotels and transportation companies and many local businesses in cities and resort areas during the past 2 years since the pandemic outbroke.
Facilitating the path for foreign tourists to easily enter the country, Viet Nam only requires a valid Tourist Visa, proof of vaccination against Covid-19, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival and a travel insurance covering at least $10,000 worth of Covid-19-related medical treatment. Upon arrival in the country, foreign tourists are no longer obliged to follow mandatory quarantine requirement. These rules are quite similar to the Test & Go system or Exemption from Quarantine, which has been used by tens of thousands of tourists who visited Thailand in the past few months. This policy creates a more vivid picture of a lively tourism as travelers can access the whole country and generates much needed dynamics for the industry that once created 660,000 jobs between 2014 and 2019.
In 2020, as COVID-19 outbroke, Viet Nam recorded a total of 4 million tourists, ranking 47th in the world in absolute terms, and generated around 3.23 billion US Dollar in the tourism sector alone which represents approximately 11 percent of all international tourism receipts in Southeast Asia.
Income from international tourism amount to a significant share of Viet Nam’s GDP as statistics showed in 2019: 18.01 million foreign visitors contributed to 4.5% of the national GDP. Foreign visitors also spent more than domestic ones with an average of $673 per traveler compared to $61 spent on average by domestic travelers. Since COVID-19 put an end on travel for much of the past two years, many people have saved up money and vacation days that they are now eager to use.
… with four focuses to jump-start the recovery of Vietnamese tourism
Experience beyond accommodation – It should be one of the priorities of the tourist industry in Viet Nam in the coming time as travelers now are shifting to personalize their trips through destinations. Instead of spending on luxury accommodations, travelers are saving money for destination experiences.
In Viet Nam, examples of efforts aimed at developing a distinct experience have emerged, rather than specific infrastructures, such as hiking and trekking inside National Parks and Biosphere Reserves throughout the country in Cat Ba, Hoang Lien Son, Pu Luong or Phu Quoc; marathon races in various famous tourist destinations like Moc Chau (Son La), Mu Cang Chai (Yen Bai), Ha Long (Quang Ninh), Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh), Bau Trang (Binh Thuan), Con Dao (Ba Ria – Vung Tau) …; water sports in Mui Ne, Nha Trang; and adventure activities in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, …
Green and sustainable – Viet Nam tourism should create opportunity for tourists, both domestic and international, to be able to choose operators with a responsible tourism policy in order to protect these hidden charms of Viet Nam and allow them to develop in a sustainable manner without fading away. There are plenty of issues to keep in mind when it comes to responsible tourism in the country – from the overcrowding and pollution of UNESCO-recognized Halong Bay, to the fair treatment of Hoi An’s skilled tailors.
On March last year, Euromonitor International report pointed out that Viet Nam was in the bottom five of a global sustainable tourism league, ranking 96th out of 99 countries, standing alongside Morocco, Mauritius, India and Pakistan. As wars may have ended a few decades ago, their effects linger on. Some sanctions, which have stunted the country’s economic growth, were only lifted in 1994; unexploded landmines plague farmers and children, and land poisoned by chemical weapons remains unable to produce much-needed food. It is understandable for a country like Viet Nam that the need for employment and sustenance often takes priority over the conservation of landscapes, as tourism development marches on, unchecked, and is now spreading into some of its most pristine regions.
Though there are still a lot to do, Viet Nam has started to implement needed actions to boost a sustainable growth for the tourism industry. With the country fully reopening, green and sustainable tourism have a greater potential than ever. Travelers are craving for new exploration in the nature and community after a long period of social distancing, isolation or lockdown as well as travel restriction.
There is still much to celebrate in this beautiful country – its diverse rain forests, its long charming coastline, its fascinating islands and its astonishing traditional villages, and visiting these places in a respectful manner contributes to their conservation – as well as showing that tourism can be carried out in a way that gives back to the land and culture, rather than taking from it.
Digital transformation is the way – The Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything, from the way people look for information, communicate, and even purchase. These changes mean that brands, including tourist ones, have to rethink how they approach their customers and find new ways to build loyalty.
Technology has affected the functioning of tourism as it has in all industries. New technologies that make life easier have started to be used frequently in tourism, starting with the digitalization of the industry and its impact on more technology-oriented marketing and sales tools and strategies.
Viet Nam has already started this transformation. The website of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has virtual tours for its most popular destinations, and some tour guides have organized real-time online tours for international customers. A commercial video titled #WhynotVietNam, produced by the Tourism Advisory Board, VNAT and CNN, aired on the US news network on 15th October 2020 and was available till mid-November the same year to drive international traffic to the website.
On the domestic level, a reality show of the same name offered up weekly online travel photo contests to engage viewers. In November last year, at the same time as the announcement of a tourism sandbox program aiming at reviving the flow of inbound foreign visitors to resort destinations, VNAT launched a campaign named #LiveFullyInVietNam to welcome international tourists back into the country for the first time since March 2020. All of these has been conducted through digital tools and platforms.
Don’t forget domestic travelers – In 2019 Viet Nam had over 80 million domestic travelers who spent more than US$15 billion on their vacations both domestically and overseas. The sentiment towards travel among local travelers is recovering. During the first nine days of the Lunar New Year, in February 2022, the tourism industry has seen positive signs, welcoming 6.1 million domestic tourists.
The Government already presented a program on tourism development for 2022-2026, aiming to draw 65-70 million national visitors between 2022-2023 and planning to reach 85 million national visitors by 2026. This plan, in the short term, may ensure the survival of operators and show the active role of the public sector in revitalizing the once-was-10%-GDP industry in the long term. It also reaffirms the commitment of the Government toward the tourism industry and encourage tourists to enjoy to #LiveFullyInVietNam./.