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HCM CITY – Many local travel agencies have cancelled tours to China and started focusing on tours within Việt Nam and to other countries as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Multiple travel agencies have lost a significant amount of sales during the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, according to Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper,
Đoàn Thị Thanh Trà from Saigontourist Travel Agency said the company decided to withdraw tours to China from its Tết schedule and offer tours to other countries with a flexible departure date within one year.
The Saigontourist Group has asked member companies to increase the number of health inspections to ensure tourists’ safety.
Việt Media Travel Corporation cancelled 200 tours with 1,000 visitors to China during this peak season, general director of the company Trần Văn Long said.
Việt Nam's Ambassador to India Phạm Sanh Châu has pushed for closer links between Việt Nam and India since the recent launch of the first direct flight from Hà Nội to Kolkata. — Photo courtesy of Hương Giang Travel
Popular tours from HCM City include Zhangjiaije – Fenghuang County; Beijing – Shanghai – Hangzhou – Suzhou; and Kunming – Lijiang – Shangrila.
“Due to the breakout of nCoV, we recommend that locals not travel to China. For people who have paid for their tours, we will give refunds or provide customers with other tours of equivalent value,” Long said.
Từ Quý Thành, director of Liên Bang Travel Company, said his company was affected by the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003.
Now with the coronavirus, he said that many travel companies specialising in tours to China, Hong Kong and Macau, are expected to experience huge financial losses, worth some billion đồng.
Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper reported that the accommodation cancellation rate among solo travelers has increased significantly, with many four- to five-star hotels only being able to fill up 30 to 35 per cent of their total capacity.
Thiên, an Airbnb host, said that her facilities have had many cancellations while long-stay guests checking out earlier than what they had planned.
Bùi Tá Hoàng Vũ, director of HCM City Department of Tourism, the number of Chinese visitors to HCM City fell by 20 per cent during a week of Tết.
Since the number of visitors from other countries also cancelled their tours, HCM City in January attracted only 840,000 international travellers.
Similar cases have been seen in other Asian markets, including Thailand, Japan and China, he added.
Rajiv Biswas, chief economist of the Asia – Pacific region under HIS Markit, told Đầu Tư (Việt Nam Investment Review) newspaper that Thailand, Japan and Việt Nam were the hardest hit by the coronavirus breakout in terms of tourism.
Thailand drew 10.5 million of visits from Chinese locals last year, worth US$17 billion, and Japan welcomed 9.6 million Chinese visitors, he said.
Local tours within Việt Nam and tours to other international countries have received more attention recently.
CEO of AZA Travel Nguyễn Tiến Đạt said that despite the outbreak, many people are willing to travel, which has encouraged many travel agencies to use unique tours while taking careful measures to ensure safety for tourists.
“AZA Travel currently offers anti-virus masks and hand sanitisers to people going on tours. Meals are now incorporated with food helping boost the immune system, and the company will also upgrade the level of insurance for those going to Myanmar, Bali, and Japan, among other countries,” Đạt said.
Đinh Hiếu Nghĩa, communications director for Tugo International Travel Company, said that the company has purchased anti-virus items for their office and sought tourism collaboration with Taiwan, Korea, and Australia, among other countries.
Trần Đức Hải, director of the Hà Nội Department of Tourism, said that the coronavirus outbreak has created chances for Việt Nam to invest in other high-end tourism markets, as it prepares for the Formula 1 Grand Prix in the near future.
“Hà Nội is drafting new tourism products with competitive prices to promote local tours after the Tết holiday as the number of foreign visitors is only equal to one quarter of domestic travellers,” he added.
Similar to what happened after the SARS epidemic in 2003, experts predict that tourism demand will increase threefold after the coronavirus outbreak is brought under control.
It is important for relevant agencies to improve tourism infrastructure and labour quality to welcome visitors from high-end tourism markets, as well as locals.
Meanwhile, Vũ added that as the Chinese market makes up 10 per cent of total international visitors to HCM City, the Tourism Department has anticipated the effects and would push for sales from other markets such as the US, Europe, India and Southeast Asia.
As of February 3, Việt Nam had confirmed an additional three cases of coronavirus, the Heath Ministry said, bringing the country’s total to eight cases, which are limited to four provinces out of 63 in Việt Nam.
Due to the outbreak, Việt Nam Airlines has temporarily cancelled all flights to China, with a limited number of flights Hong Kong and Macau, deputy general director of Việt Nam Airlines, Trịnh Ngọc Thành, said. — VNS