The ambassadors within nation’s tourism industry

March 31, 2020 | 14:00
Voluntarily registered as a free or paid quaranntine facility for the last overseas guests in Vietnam, top hotels and homestays have become the nation’s ambassadors with a hospitable and enthusiastic message from the tourism industry, and the country as a whole, to international friends.
the ambassadors within nations tourism industry
Hotels and homestays are stepping up to help those in need, and do their bit for the country

One month after Vietnam officially sparked the second phase of its fight against the novel coronavirus, the country has been showing clear and absolute determination to control the virus.

Many drastic and applicable measures to contain the disease, which heavily focus on minimising the spread by quarantines and tracking down contacts, have allowed the cases in Vietnam remain at a low rate with no deaths reported.

In response to the government’s effort, residents have closely followed authorities’ directions of crowd restrictions, wearing masks in public places, and updating health declarations.

In addition, from March 28 until April 15 in line with Directive No.15/CT-TTg, meetings and events with more than 20 people, as well as religious rituals, cultural, sports, and recreational activities in public places, are being forced into suspension. Besides that, the PM also ordered suspension of all non-essential services, except for those selling food and essential goods, limiting travel, especially from provinces and cities hit by the epidemic to other localities.

Operation of public transport must be halted or reorganised, while flights transferring passengers from/to the two major cities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – have been reduced.

Among those who have been hit the hardest since the pandemic broke out, tourism and service businesses are now some of the most enthusiastic forces in the COVID-19 fight, stepping up to accompany the government to efficiently cope with the crisis.

In addition to implementing preventive and sanitising measures since the early stage of the outbreak, many tourism businesses and travel agencies are assisting their current guests who are still stuck in the country during the lockdown.

Supporting Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s determination, Le Anh Tuan, CEO at Indochina Voyages Travel and Trading Co., Ltd said, “Though suffering a great deal from the epidemic and the restrictions, we and many other businesses stand by the side of the Vietnamese government, even if the preventive measures become stricter. We have halted all tourist activities and will only be back to operation once the government announces successful containment.”

In a country with limited resources like Vietnam, the aggressive quarantines and contact monitoring might just be some of the few truly effective measures.

However, ever since thousands of Vietnamese workers and students started to flock home to find a safe haven, the country has been burdened with a dramatic increase in quarantined persons and their multi-level contacts.

Qualified quarantine areas have been expanded from hospitals and military bases to student dormitories. In such a situation, Vietnam’s image as a safe and hospitable place to visit is at stake.

Therefore, the country is placing the safety of not only its own citizens but also foreign tourists and expats at the top of all priorities.

“It was even better than it is currently in Europe,” said Jan Bleyenberg from Belgium, who had a 14-day quarantine experience at a resort in Hoi An. “We had nothing to be bothered by, other than being a bit inconvenienced from not going out for a walk.”

“We will never forget this special trip,” he added.

Upon receiving minor complaints from some people under isolation, saying that the free-of-charge quarantine sites where they stay are “boring and low-graded”, localities have been calling for hotels and resorts nationwide to serve as the quarantine premises.

This followed on from the directions from both the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) and the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control.

Following their directions, hoteliers across the country have raised hands to open their spaces with facilities able to serve some 20,000 guests to quarantine.

By doing so, they have contributed to beautifying the image of the country and people of Vietnam in the eyes of international visitors, going some way to ensuring Vietnam remains a reputable destination for travellers in the years to come.

For the greater good

Although it only opened for the first time in January, Bao Minh Radiant Hotel in the northern province of Quang Ninh’s Halong is already famous. Over the past month, tourists from South Korea, China, Japan, the UK, and India were forced into quarantine in accordance with government regulations when their flight landed at Van Don International Airport.

The hotel has welcomed a total of 157 guests, including 127 from the South Korean epidemic region. All of the guests have since completed 14 days of isolation, with the last guest leaving on March 21, before the hotel was disinfected and embarked upon a pause of business activities to wait for tourism to be rehabilitated. Speaking to VIR, Bui Thuy Hanh, director of the 4-star hotel, said that the establishment received four Chinese guests quarantined in early February at the request of local authorities. After the four guests checked out, the hotel was again asked to prepare for welcoming guests from South Korea.

“Although there is a strong outbreak in South Korea, we agreed with the government’s viewpoint that fighting epidemics is fighting against the enemy. We also decided to make free all meals and accommodation for tourists to share the burden with Quang Ninh.”

According to Hanh, the hotel used 98 of the total 135 rooms as accommodation for guests over the 14 days. Two guests shared a room, each usually costing VND1.2-1.4 million ($52-$61) per night. All food and necessities were provided for free to the room with standard meals worth of VND180,000 ($7.80) per day. Two medical staff visited each room to measure body temperatures and check guests’ health twice a day.

Hanh said that in order to make the decision, she had to fight ideologically with both herself and staff. “Welcoming guests from the epidemic area and telling staff not to worry is not easy. What happens if one of those guests is infected? But if everyone refused, where could they go? And would the community be safe? After explaining that to the staff, they were happy to agree,” Hanh said.

Nearly 50 hotel staff volunteered to stay to assist guests. They worked hard, complying with safety regulations, and accepted that they would have to be separated from family for 14 days.

Every cloud has a silver lining

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, some 160 hotels and resorts in 24 cities and provinces have raised hands to help, with their facilities able to serve some 20,000 people.

Among those, there are localities with high numbers of registrations, such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Dong Nai, and Quang Ninh. Hotels signing up to function as quarantine sites must include room and service rates at supportive prices.

The registrations will then be submitted to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to be evaluated and selected. Finally, the ministry chooses qualified places which can set up facilities and organise the isolation according to regulations and instructions from the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Reportedly, the MoH has issued guidelines stating that if a person subject to quarantine wishes to be accommodated at a hotel, he or she must pay a fee including other service fees This type of “luxury quarantine” is to be prioritised for international visitors and expats in Vietnam, as well as Vietnamese who returned from abroad.

Of the registered facilities, three in Hanoi including Muong Thanh Grand Xa La Hotel in Ha Dong district, Hoa Binh Hotel on Ly Thuong Kiet street in the popular Hoan Kiem district, and Thang Long Espana Hotel on Hang Bun street (Ba Dinh district), have been selected to be qualified isolation sites in the city.

In Ho Chi Minh City, one hotel in District 1, two in District 7, one in District 4, and one in District 5 have also been accepted to serve quarantined people, along with one in Tan Binh district and three in Can Gio district.

Hotels used for isolation must not serve other purposes and must ensure essential living conditions, as well as security guards, strict regulations for unauthorised people, and regular disinfection.

Hotel staff in qualified places are also trained to take care of quarantined people and carry out disinfection and body temperature checks. After the quarantine, the beddings used by patients have to be destroyed.

House of comforts

In the southeast province of Vinh Long, Ut Trinh Homestay – a place chosen by many European delegations when visiting the Mekong Delta – also announced the welcome of guides and people working in tourism on voluntary isolation.

After all foreign guests staying at the homestay left on March 19, Ut Trinh Homestay conducted disinfection of the entire area to prepare to welcome the tour guides, who had finished their customer service schedules but wanted to isolate themselves to ensure safety for relatives and for the community.

According to Pham Thi Ngoc Trinh, deputy director of Mekong Travel and owner of Ut Trinh Homestay, some tour guides who finished the tour before March 17 were staying at the homestay, and many still registered but cancelled when the government called for people to restrict movement. The homestay also reported that Vinh Long Department of Tourism and the local commune health station only accepted those not required to be quarantined but wanted to be isolated voluntarily in good health.

Every day, staff conduct body temperature measurements for the tour guides twice and recorded it in the health declaration using the form provided by the department of health. If guests show any signs of abnormal health, they are immediately notified by the commune health station for timely treatment.

The cost of homestay to support each guest is VND300,000 ($13) per day, including living expenses and three meals. Not only is there a safe place to isolate, these guests also experience many activities to improve health such as cycling, gardening, baking, planting vegetables, and even fishing, just like a guest on a normal vacation.

Trinh shared, “We did it because of our emotional attachment to the guides. We felt sorry for them when they lamented having to lock themselves in the city, so this idea came up. As we are in the same industry, we should trust each other, but if they are domestic tourists, the facilities are not qualified to receive medical treatment nor dare to accept because of the high risk of infection.”

By Mai Oanh

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