Lê Hương & Bảo Ngọc
Việt Nam is determined to fully reopen its tourism industry and will adopt measures to treat foreign and domestic tourists alike, Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam said on Tuesday.
On March 15, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinated with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to organise a conference on safe and effective international tourism reopening.
The event connected a number of localities with 94 Vietnamese embassies as well as offices abroad.
Representatives from the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), the Consular Department (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), airlines, travel companies, tour operators, and hotels also attended the conference.
Đam said March 15 is not just about opening tourism, but also international trade and international exchange as it was pre-COVID.
The Deputy Prime Minister emphasised that the guiding spirit of the Government is not to treat foreign tourists and local people differently, in terms of pandemic precaution measures.
"Tourists traveling by air will need to be tested for COVID-19, and once they're here, they will be treated like Vietnamese people," he said.
"Those entering by water, road or rail, need to meet some more regulations on pandemic prevention and control."
But he warned not to expect an instant influx of visitors.
“Tourism recovery will not happen quickly in a few days or weeks, it will take months or longer,” he said.
Explaining why the Government decided to open the door to international tourists despite the country still having a record high number of infections, Đam reiterated his statement from February 15 saying that infections will continue to rise, but the problem is no longer the same as it was when the outbreak began.
The goal is to prevent and control the pandemic effectively, without exceeding the response capacity of the health system, he said.
He also urged ambassadors, heads of Vietnamese missions abroad, the tourism business community, and tourism households to seize the opportunity to open their doors and compensate for losses incurred over the past two years.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyễn Minh Vũ also said this is the right decision at the right time.
"We have entered a new phase in pandemic response and can confidently welcome international tourists to Việt Nam," he emphasised.
He said supporting the tourism industry's recovery and promotion is a practical contribution to achieving the current and future goals of socio-economic recovery and development.
Hà Văn Siêu, vice chairman of Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said efforts must be made to assist travellers in the best possible way, both in terms of visas and airline connections; improve product quality, and upgrade facilities and services to meet the requirements of the new normal.
“All of these issues need to be constantly improved to facilitate international visitors,” he said.
On the same day, the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism hosted a press conference in Hà Nội to announce the opening of all tourism activities.
Nguyễn Quý Phương, head of Travel Department of the VNAT, said they have directed localities to implement a domestic tourism programme to safely adapt to the pandemic; issue policies to lure tourists to tourism sites like price reductions and bonus services. The VNAT has also asked tourism enterprises to plan activities to prevent pandemic spread and deal with positive cases.
The agency has promoted the “Live fully in Vietnam” communication programme in website vietnam.travel, social networks like Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest; and through international media and Vietnamese representative offices overseas.
“In the next few months, the tourism sector will continue to push the “Live fully in Vietnam” campaign; co-ordinate with localities and enterprises to promote tourism in key and potential markets,” Phương said.
“We will further co-operate with Vietnamese representative offices throughout the world to promote tourism."
The culture ministry has proposed that the Government ask provinces to issue policies to encourage experienced tourism workers to return to work after many quit for other jobs. The ministry will also suggest the Government to ask tourism enterprises to actively recruit new staff.
In the longer term, the ministry will raise the tourism sector's competitiveness by developing its human resource's quantity, quality, skills and foreign language capacity.
In 2021, Việt Nam had 40 million domestic visitors while since the end of November 2021, when the country piloted re-opening to welcome international tourists, more than 10,000 visited from abroad.
During the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, 6.1 million people travelled inside the country, surpassing the number for the whole of December 2021.
Nguyễn Trùng Khánh, chairman of the VNAT, said in the first two months of 2022, the total number of domestic travellers was 17.6 million and the total income from tourism was some VNĐ41.38 trillion (US$1.8 million), a 313 per cent increase against the same period in 2021.
“In February alone, the number of domestic travellers was 9.6 million, a 380 per cent increase; 6 million of whom stayed overnight at hotels and resorts,” he said.
“The high number of domestic tourists confirms that the recent safe tourism activities have been implemented in the right way. The sector is ready for international tourism activities.”
According to data analysis from Google Destination Insights, the number of searches related to Việt Nam started to increase in early December 2021 and continued to rise sharply.
The number of searches on January 1, 2022 increase 222 per cent against the previous month and a 248 per cent year-on-year.
Since early January 2022, the number of search on Vietnamese airlines' websites remains high; on January 21, the number increased 425 per cent while on February 3, the number increased 374 per cent against the same period in 2021.
“The pandemic has shown the importance and benefit of digital transition in tourism sector,” Khánh said.
“The ministry will research and improve technology to serve tourists, enterprises and localities,” he said.
The sector aims for five million international visitors, 60 million domestic travellers, and a total income of some VNĐ400 trillion this year. — VNS