Currently the entire tourism sector is working frantically to make preparations for the coming national holidays from 30 April and in early May. The peak summer season too is being targeted as a possible revival for domestic tourism.
Prices at rock bottom
The coming national holidays could be a golden opportunity for the tourism sector to once again lure working people to travel to popular destinations in the country. Currently, websites of tour operators are abuzz with so many promotional tours and attractive travel packages for the coming Reunification Day and Labor Day holidays. Some companies are even offering gifts and chances for lucky prize draws.
Apart from the traditional tourist spots, visitors now have a chance to experience comfortable stays at five or even six star international standard accommodations at extremely fair prices. This luxury was earlier only available for foreign or very wealthy visitors. Tourism companies in cities and provinces have joined hands with tour operators in preparing stimulus packages and introducing new products to welcome visitors during these two big holidays, as well as throughout the summer season. Hopes of a recovery for the tourism industry are once again growing, and much hope is riding on the coming holidays.
Speaking with Saigon Investment, Mr. Tran Van Long, from Viet Media Travel Corporation, said that the prices offered by tour operators are already at rock bottom, and related businesses such as accommodations, restaurants and transport providers have joined hands to lower service prices as well, to very low levels which at times even run at a loss. This shows that the tourism industry is bending backwards to keep the industry alive in hopes for a new revival. The good news is that a large number of people are showing a great deal of interest in the tourism industry. There has been considerable increase in reservations over the past few weeks, and quite a few people have even made vacation plans for the coming summer season.
However, there is a constant lurking fear of the pandemic over everyone’s head. A few days ago, when tour operators and tourism agencies were getting excited about the coming holidays in April and May, some frightening news came in of a few people who had entered Vietnam illegally in the Southern island of Phu Quoc and had tested positive for coronavirus. These same people had also travelled to a few other cities and provinces. This news caused a fall in tour reservations, and some would be travelers even considered cancelling their bookings. Fortunately, the situation did not get worse, and more people have begun to book tours again, causing much relief for tour operators.
Mr. Nguyen Van My, Chairman of the Board of Members of Lua Viet Tours Company Ltd., said that most companies do not dare to reserve many rooms and tickets, as the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has taught a lesson that anything may happen very suddenly and anywhere, and businesses usually cannot take effective preventive measures as quickly. Therefore, Mr. Nguyen Van My feels that information about the Covid-19 pandemic must be updated on a daily basis.
Safety a prerequisite
After three unexpected surges of the Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted the tourism industry in the country, promotional and discount packages are no longer a new feature for tourists. Many say that this is a great opportunity to experience premium services that they may have never been able to afford before. However, some managers have argued that it is absolutely not a good idea to talk about low prices all the time.
Referring to this matter, Mr Nguyen Van My said that tourists do not really care very much about how low prices are, because prices have gone down to rock bottom now. Instead, tourists would rather think about the quality of the services. If we try to reduce the prices further, it could be very hard to raise the prices again in the future. Worse still, there could be a real concern that low prices are a good indicator of low quality. Instead of a lower price, tour operators should provide more services as a gift.
It is a fact that low prices are accompanied with lower quality. For example, during the ‘Vietnamese people tour Vietnam’ program launched last year by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, some services were not as good as promised at the beginning. Tour operators tried to attract tourists by offering lower prices, but they cut short the list of services, which badly hurt the tourists. Therefore, the promotional program this year must ensure low prices and high quality services. Only such good offers could restore public trust, thereby preventing the domestic tourism industry from going down.
In addition to good quality, safety is among the biggest concerns for tourists in the current situation. If tour operators can ensure safety, it can play a pivotal role in causing tourists who prefer to travel on their own, rather than accompany other tourist groups. Some tour operators have found that people may have freedom of doing whatever they like when they travel by themselves, but health safety cannot be ensured during a pandemic like this. However, tour operators have taken the matter of health safety very seriously. They have made careful preparations, chosen the best possible destinations, and provided all the necessary support for tourists during their tours.
Vaccine passports bring hope
As vaccines are being distributed to citizens across many countries, including Vietnam, tour operators and government officials are trying to promote the recovery of the domestic tourism industry and are also thinking of reopening doors for international visitors, because the tourism industry depends heavily on international tourists for survival.
Recently, the Tourism Advisory Board of Vietnam and the National Administration of Tourism sent a letter to the Prime Minister proposing a gradual reopening of doors for international tourists with vaccine passports. The Government Office has also passed the Prime Minister's opinion on to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, asking the Ministry to work closely with other ministries and agencies to consider measures by which to restart international travel and welcome overseas guests once again.
The tourism industry officials hope that careful preparations taken step by step allow international tourists to begin touring Vietnam again from July. Vietnam will try out the measures for a month or two before deciding to open the doors for international guests to enter Vietnam in larger numbers by October this year.
However, there is still much concern about vaccine passports, and about whether or not a vaccine is capable of protecting an inoculated person against the new variants of the Covid-19. Several vaccines have been licensed and introduced into the market, but answers to the question as to how protective they are, is rather unsatisfactory.
At a recent conference on measures to welcome international visitors, Dr. Pham Quang Thai, Deputy Dean of the Infectious Diseases Control Department of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi, said that together with a certificate of inoculation, people also need to have a certificate of antibody, before they meet the requirements for entering Vietnam without being isolated. Dr. Pham Quang Thai feels that by doing a good job of containing the disease and ensuring safety for visitors as well as introducing flexible favorable policies will undoubtedly boost a speedy recovery and rapid growth for the tourism industry again.