Domestic tourism will continue to be the “lifesaver” of the tourism sector in 2021, officials and experts have said.
Nguyễn Trùng Khánh, chairman of the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST), quoted the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s recent concerns about global tourism and agreed with the sentiment.
The organisation has estimated that only by the third quarter of this year will tourism truly begin to recover, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to remain a complex problem.
New variants have spread to many countries and the number of infections can rapidly increase by the hour.
Even with the most optimistic spirit, the UNWTO is unable to accurately predict when to open up tourism markets to international visitors.
“The domestic tourism market therefore remains the saviour of Việt Nam’s tourism sector for the foreseeable future,” Khánh said.
Regarding development planning for this year, he said that following calculations and based on actual circumstances, MoCST assigned the tourism sector to cater to 80 million domestic tourists and earn revenue of VNĐ377 trillion (US$16 billion).
“These are quite high numbers, but if COVID-19 is fully controlled around the country and local tourism authorities, associations, and businesses work together in overcoming the obstacles, they can be achieved,” he said.
Meanwhile, experts have said eco-tourism and small-scale tours that aim to provide safe, responsible and sustainable experiences are expected to be trending this year.
Secretary-General of the UNWTO Zurab Pololikashvili said that 2021 would remain a difficult year for the global industry.
Domestic tourism would continue to be the focus. “The demand for outdoor activities close to nature and rural tourism will increase in 2021,” he said.
UNWTO forecast that domestic and near-home tourism would be prominent, accounting for over 90 per cent of general trends. People now tend to travel somewhere close to their place of residence or to natural surroundings.
Health and safety measures would continue to be a major concern among tourists this year. With unpredictable pandemic developments and travel restriction policies in many countries, last-minute travel bookings would continue to be common, Pololikashvili said.
He added that although domestic tourism had favourable conditions in many countries, it could only partly make up for the loss of international tourism. For destinations mainly dependent on international tourism, domestic tourism could not help revive these markets.
Short trips, food tours
Local experts said that family travel, short trips, solo travel and food-related tours would be “in” this year.
According to Anthony Lu, regional director of Booking.com Việt Nam, a recent survey has shown that 71 per cent of Vietnamese consider future travel opportunities as a way to reconnect with their loved ones and that 67 per cent would like shorter vacations.
At least 43 per cent prefer relaxing “escape” trips to luxury travel, while 53 per cent are eager to try local cuisines while travelling.
In 2020, most tourists spent a long time away from friends and family and it appears that distance made people respect each other more.
The research has also revealed that 49 per cent of travellers agreed that travel is a fascinating topic to discuss among friends and family and one of the main sources of inspiration for reviving travel again.
As most people’s travel plans have been postponed due to the pandemic, 57 per cent of Vietnamese tourists are determined not to take the opportunity to travel in the future lightly.
At least 38 per cent would immediately consider a weekend holiday for the first trip after travel restrictions are lifted. However, only 10 per cent would pursue a luxury trip due to concerns about disruption.
In terms of international travel, 73 per cent of respondents said that they would avoid travelling abroad despite the lift of travel restrictions. That explains why domestic tourism remains a top priority in 2021.
More than 50 per cent of Vietnamese tourists said they wanted to experience local cuisines when travelling and 45 per cent would eat out more because of savings on not travelling abroad.
In addition, the tendency to travel alone is likely to increase sharply, as 29 per cent of local tourists said that they would travel alone in the future.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to change tourism trends. But it is reassuring to see that Vietnamese tourists are optimistic when it comes to travelling in 2021. The research results have confirmed that tourism is an important part of life. As soon as the quality and safe tourism conditions are ensured, tourists will confidently seek out new adventures,” Director Lu said.
Hà Văn Siêu, VNAT vice chairman, said that 2020 was a tough year for tourism.
“Travel agencies definitely learned valuable lessons from the pandemic to overcome a similar crisis. I believe they will step by step restore their usual business operations,” he said.
Siêu added that one of the important steps for travel agencies would be to introduce new services and tourism products, especially ones at night to increase revenue for the tourism industry.
In the first days of March, a lot of travel agencies in HCM City welcomed guests on tours. Some companies also have departures after the Tết (Lunar New Year festival).
Nguyễn Minh Mẫn, head of the TSTtourist Company’s Communications-Marketing office, said that in March, the company organised many tours from HCM City to domestic tourist destinations such as Phú Quốc, Sa Pa – Hà Nội – Ninh Bình, Đà Nẵng, Buôn Ma Thuột, Phan Thiết, Đà Lạt, and Huế. It will increase the tours in April.
Other companies also welcomed many groups of tourists in HCM City and to neighbouring provinces such as Đồng Nai, Bình Dương and Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu. Most travel companies hope that the tourism market will recover in the second quarter of 2021.
According to them, in 2021 small groups of tourists is a new trend. That means a group of 10-15 tourists instead of a group of 30-50 people.
To ensure a safe trip for guests, travel companies affirm that they implement anti-pandemic regulations of the Ministry of Health for the tourism sector.
Preparing for the opening of the domestic market to welcome world tourists, Nguyễn Hữu Thọ, chairman of the Việt Nam Tourism Association, said Việt Nam would need to research solutions and prepare all necessary conditions to open border for foreign tourists from July 2021.
About 95 per cent of domestic tour operators providing tours for foreign visitors had to stop operating since the beginning of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of hotels were closed and millions of workers in the tourism industry were put out of work. Therefore, the tourism industry needed new solutions to overcome the current crisis, Thọ said.
Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hương, VNAT vice chairwoman, said the administration was studying a plan to reopen the tourism market for international visitors.
Việt Nam could not receive massive numbers of foreign tourists, but it could not be slow due to competition from other regional countries.
The domestic travel companies could choose key markets with high demand visiting Việt Nam, build tour packages and choose a convenient airport destination and an independent resort to receive international visitors, Hương said. — VNS