|BEACH BIRDS: Tourists are seen at Phú Quốc Island in the southern province of Kiên Giang. VNA/VNS Photo Lê Huy Hải
HÀ NỘI - Vietnamese tourism and airline services have not recovered as expected despite the country’s early opening for tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Lê Quốc Minh, editor-in-chief of Nhân Dân (People) newspaper.
He made the statement at a roundtable themed "Economic and business recovery 2022: Solutions to create a breakthrough from the pillar of the aviation-tourism service,” organised recently by the newspaper in collaboration with the Research and Development Department of the Private Economy.
Minh assessed that Việt Nam’s economy recovered rapidly and continued to grow despite global challenges in 2022. The economic recovery momentum comes from macroeconomic stability, agricultural support, and the rapid recovery of the manufacturing, processing and domestic consumption sectors.
However, he noted that the Vietnamese economic recovery has been uneven across sectors. Despite its early opening for tourism after the pandemic on March 15, tourism-airline services have not recovered as expected as the number of international visitors has been much lower than some other countries in the region.
According to Chris Farwell, representative of the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), Việt Nam’s tourism in general has grown stronger than forecast in the domestic market, increasing by more than 100 million visitors compared to initial forecasts.
However, the number of international tourists did not achieve the expected recovery rate, reaching about 3.5 million international tourists, much lower than the target of five million international arrivals in 2022 and US$4.5 billion in revenue, he added.
Foreign visitors contribute a significant part in the total revenue structure of the tourism industry. It is estimated that in the three years before the COVID-19 pandemic, international visitors to Việt Nam were only 20 per cent of domestic visitors but contributed about 58 per cent of total income. In 2019 specifically, total revenue from international tourists accounted for $18.3 billion of total revenue of $32.8 billion generated by the tourism industry.
Meanwhile, other countries in the region, such as Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia, have all exceeded their targets in terms of attracting international visitors and recovering the tourism industry.
Thailand has reached its goal of 10 million international tourists set for 2022 by the beginning of December, earning total revenue of $14 billion. In the last two months of 2022, some of Thailand's main markets in Europe have nearly resumed to pre-COVID-19 levels while none of Việt Nam’s key markets have recovered to 50 per cent of their levels before the pandemic.
Urgent actions needed
According to Farwell, one of the main reasons for the success of tourism in other countries in the region after re-opening is the increase of the visa-free period to over 30 days for international visitors.
The representative of TAB added that Việt Nam has not had a national plan on revitalising the tourism and hospitality industry. In addition, the national tourism industry is still largely dependent on irregular, regional initiatives and projects or domestic tourists to "feed" itself. The country is also lacking a working group that includes representatives of the Government and the private sector to collaborate to develop and deploy a national plan for tourism.
He therefore recommended that quick action and incentives must be implemented to entice more tourists, while the government urgently needs to support the tourism industry.
At the roundtable, business leaders, economic experts and representatives of state management agencies focused on discussing and identifying the main bottlenecks hindering achieving the goal of attracting five million international tourists and the reasons why Việt Nam is at the bottom of the international tourism recovery rankings compared to other countries in the region despite its early opening.
The conference agreed to propose urgent solutions for 2023 so that aviation-tourism can fully recover, such as making the visa-free list of countries equal to Thailand (65 countries), extending the number of visa-free days to 30-45 days or more, removing COVID-19 treatment insurance and perfecting policies and mechanisms to facilitate the recovery of tourism by setting up a special working group to restore Việt Nam’s international tourism arrivals.
The solutions will be compiled and submitted to the Government and the Prime Minister for consideration at a national tourism conference that kicks off on December 21. VNS