PREPARING FOR VISITORS: Phạm Ngọc Thủy, the director of the provincial department of tourism. VNA/VNS Photo Văn Đức
The northern province of Quảng Ninh, home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, is among the localities in Việt Nam to receive the first international tourists with vaccine passports. Lương Hương talks with Phạm Ngọc Thủy, the director of the provincial department of tourism, about their preparations.
Inner Sanctum: Tell me about Quảng Ninh’s preparations for the return of international tourists early next year?
Based on a specific roadmap of gradually restoring tourism activities, the People's Committee of Quảng Ninh Province issued Decision 4158/QD-UBND dated on November 24, 2021 approving the plan for receiving and serving international tourists.
Accordingly, the local authorities have proposed specific tourism routes, destinations, products and services dedicated to these target customers. The pilot period will be divided into stages for an appropriate management method while ensuring safety for both tourists and the local communities and meeting the goals of development. Experiences will be drawn upon to improve the effectiveness of the implementation.
Quảng Ninh’s tourism sector has directly collaborated with large travel agencies specialising in bringing international visitors to Việt Nam to come up with solutions and plans in the immediate and future periods. Meanwhile, local tourism businesses will receive guidance on current regulations in welcoming and serving international visitors.
Inner Sanctum: What new tourism products has the province introduced?
The tourism space of Quảng Ninh continues to be expanded, concentrated in four regions: Đông Triều - Uông Bí - Quảng Yên; Hạ Long; Vân Đồn - Cô Tô, as well as Bình Liêu, Tiên Yên, and Móng Cái. It is also associated with four main tourism product lines – sea and island tourism; cultural and spiritual tourism; eco-community tourism; and border tourism.
Recently, in addition to the tourism stimulus policy and attractive incentives, the provincial tourism sector has researched and proposed many tourism products, specifically in terms of accommodation and tourism associated with local culture, landscape and sports, which have been conducted in FLC Hạ Long resort complex, Tuần Châu international tourist area, Yên Tử scenic spot and Hạ Long Bay.
Many large local tourism corporations and travel agencies have also proactively launched new products, creating levers for provincial tourism to develop in a new context such as “travel bubble” tours or detox tours at destinations such as Legacy Yên Tử, Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh, and Premier Village Halong Bay Resort.
Specifically, Sun Group has researched and invested in high-end tourism ecosystems, meeting the diverse needs of tourists all year round, such as dual experiences in which tourists can enjoy themselves at a waterpark in the summer and then at the winter-theme park at Sun World Halong Complex.
Meanwhile, Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh Resort has introduced culinary experiences and health tourism with different packages suitable for all ages.
The Tùng Lâm Development Joint Stock Company has offered many tourist products to attract visitors to Yên Tử historical site in all four seasons of the year such as yoga in the early morning, bell meditation or Làng Nương Festival.
Inner Sanctum: What is your expectation of the number of international tourists?
First international passengers from traditional and safe markets will arrive at Vân Đồn International Airport in January 2022. The number depends on the pandemic situation at their destinations and the anti-pandemic policies of the countries where they depart. However, it is expected that the number will not be high in the first phase.
Inner Sanctum: Tourism is one of the sectors that have been most severely affected by the pandemic, particularly in terms of human resources. How has Quảng Ninh dealt with this?
Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, Quảng Ninh Province had about 63,000 tourism employees.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, over 90 per cent of tourism businesses have closed while others have minimised activities as they could not afford to pay for employees and maintain facilities.
Many skilled tourism workers have therefore quit their jobs and looked for new ones at factories or industrial parks. Most businesses only maintain a few employees who work from eight to 15 days per month with an average salary of barely VNĐ1.5 million-4.5 million (US$65-196) per month, including insurance.
Thus, after the pandemic is controlled and the tourism sector recovers, Quảng Ninh will inevitably face shortages in both the quantity and quality of tourism management staff and professional employees, which will directly affect service quality and business performance if timely solutions are not available.
Prior to the pandemic, the People's Council of Quảng Ninh issued a resolution dated July 30, 2019 on policies to attract and encourage students to pursue specific majors at university with the aim to develop local human resources.
In addition, the Provincial People's Council has approved a resolution on policies to attract and train high-quality human resources at major training institutions. Such resolutions have become levers to attract and develop high-quality human resources, including those in the tourism sector.
A resolution on the orientations and tasks of 2022 was issued on November 25, focusing on supporting the development of human resources for tourism during the post-COVID period. The sector has actively advised the Provincial People's Committee on solving difficulties facing tourism employees and businesses, launching short-term training courses and organising competitions to honour exemplary organisations and individuals.
Local authorities will continue to coordinate with relevant agencies and organisations such as the Department of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs and tourism vocational training institutions to implement policies aimed at attracting students to pursue tourism, while supporting tourism businesses to improve the quality of their human resources and attract high-quality employees.
SETTING SAIL: International tourists pictured at Hạ Long Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site. VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng
Inner Sanctum: Quảng Ninh tourism has received a number of international accolades, for example, Vân Đồn International Airport won the Asia’s Leading Regional Airport and Hạ Long Bay was honoured as "Asia's leading attractive destination in 2021" categories at the 2021 World Travel Awards. What do these achievements mean for the province’s tourism recovery?
The World Travel Awards, granted as Quảng Ninh was preparing to receive its first international guests with vaccine passports, are both a pride and a great opportunity for provincial heritage tourism.
Endowed with such opportunity, Quảng Ninh tourism will be known not only for Hạ Long Bay, a famous natural wonder of the world, but also for high-class and quality constructions that will bring new experiences to visitors.
Inner Sanctum: What is the goal of the provincial tourism sector in 2022?
Quảng Ninh is striving to be a modern industrial and service hub; developing a green economy based on science and technology and high-quality human resources; and leading the growth in northern areas as well as in the country in administrative reform and information technology.
The province also aims at social development, improvement of local living standards, environmental protection, and preservation of national identity while sustainably promoting the values of the world’s heritage and natural wonder, Hạ Long Bay.
One of the specific goals of 2022 is building Quảng Ninh into an international tourism centre, a leading national tourist destination with modern infrastructure, as well as creating diverse, unique and high-quality tourism products.
If the pandemic is controlled and tourism activities resume positively, the total number of tourists to Quảng Ninh is estimated at about 9 million in 2022. VNS