|Vice president of sales and marketing at Paradise Cruises and Paradise Vietnam Nguyen Hong Nhat |
Which prevention measures have you applied against a possible spread of the virus?
At Paradise Vietnam, the health and safety of our passengers and staff are always our top priority. In the wake of the current pandemic, we regularly update our staff with useful information from credible sources to ensure they are well-equipped to maintain a high standard of safety, hygiene, and customer service.
We have been one of the very first cruise operators in Halong Bay to start carrying out a series of preventive safety measures for staff and guests. Following the Ministry of Health’s guidelines, all of our vehicles were sanitised before transporting guests from Hanoi to Halong Bay. All of our cabins and hotel rooms, as well as public areas such as our vessels’ corridors and decks, were sprayed with disinfectant safe for humans.
Before our tours came to a halt, we ensured that the body temperature of all of our staff was regularly checked before each shift. Face masks were also distributed to all staff before they started their shifts and to all passengers upon check-in. While we currently cannot offer any more tours since Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay have been closed for tourism, we hope to soon be able again to offer visitors our exciting tours.
Should the situation change again for the better, we will continue to take precautions to prevent any new outbreak. While onboard on one of our cruises, we will strongly advise all passengers to wear face masks in public areas and during excursions. Furthermore, we will also advise our guests to regularly use hand sanitisers which will be readily available at the reception, the check-in counter, and other public areas.
Vietnam’s tourism has been hit the hardest compared to other industries. Did you have to reduce your staff or implement special policies?
When such an outbreak occurs, it is inevitable that the tourism industry takes a big hit. Like many destinations throughout Asia, the current health crisis is significantly affecting Vietnam’s tourism, especially now that our tours cannot run anymore. But even before the closure, in Halong Bay, the number of visitors, both domestic and international, has dropped dramatically.
Before the official closure on March 12, we still maintained our original itineraries with all excursions included.
Fortunately, confidence and trust among our partners had helped ensure a decent number of visitors to continue to book our cruises. Therefore, we did not have to reduce staff yet and tried to maintain normal operations. At the moment, of course, normal operations are not possible anymore. However, we still keep our staff and hope to be back on the water soon.
Some experts argue that despite the damage the pandemic is causing, the current situation may also offer chances to alter Vietnam’s tourism industry towards a greener and more naturally-friendly one. What do you think of this opinion?
I believe that especially the country’s luxury tourism sector has increasingly appreciated the need to protect the environment and has been moving towards a greener and more sustainable direction, well before the outbreak of the virus. Promoting green tourism initiatives is important, regardless of whether there is a virus or not.
Back in 2018, Paradise Cruises introduced a programme to tackle the scourge of plastic, banning plastic straws from all of our luxury cruise ships and saving an estimated 36,000 plastic straws annually. In addition to using biodegradable paper and stainless steel straws, we have also introduced reusable glass bottles on our cruises, eliminating around 700,000 plastic bottles annually. Moreover, we also use cotton placemats, paper bags, and paper cups, further preventing substantial plastic waste.
Finally, as a move to contribute to the community and the environment, all Paradise Vietnam employees are split into teams to collect trash from different areas of Halong Bay every month to help preserve and protect this natural heritage.
Considering the heavy losses in the industry, do you have any suggestions for the government to support tourism businesses in overcoming this hard period?
Vietnamese authorities have taken a raft of proactive measures to protect citizens against the threat of the novel coronavirus, with the closure of tourism site being the most drastic one for us. After the recent spike of infections in Europe and the US, the government has frozen the current visa waiver programme for visitors from any country and asked people to self-isolate at home.
While these measures are well-placed to protect Vietnam at the moment, we support the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism’s proposed general measures for the country to provide visa exemptions and waive fees in a bid to help the country’s tourism industry. Of course, these measures can only be reactivated when the situation has become safer.
Amid the current health crisis, it is time for us all to band together and support one another. As such, as soon as Vietnam is again free of infections, we need to encourage the locals to travel in their “own backyard”, where it is relatively safe.
We have supported travel agents and retailers by providing them with information about our preventive safety measures for staff and guests, and we have also given our business partners very good rates. By doing so, we hope to boost domestic tourism and secure a stable income source for local businesses right after the national lockdown at the moment.
At Paradise Vietnam, we are always trying to offer exciting new experiences. Two months ago, we sailed into uncharted waters with the launch of our inaugural cruise in Lan Ha Bay, situated just south of the famed Halong Bay. Lan Ha Bay is a geographical extension of Halong Bay and home to 300-odd towering limestone karsts, emerald waters, and white sand beaches.
To offer the best possible experience for our guests, we unveiled the first of two Paradise Grand vessels - the most luxurious overnight boats to ever cross Lan Ha Bay’s waters, on January 25. The ship’s conveniences include butler services for all guests, a fine dining menu crafted by British Michelin-starred chef John Burton-Race, and an indulgent spa with four treatment cabins, as well as live music at an elegant piano lounge, a vast sun deck with an outdoor movie theatre, and adjacent sky bar with panoramic views.