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|Tourism businesses optimistic about 2022|
“If we sit still and wait for the storm to pass, we may drown before we have a chance to overcome the situation,” said Danh Minh Truong, chairman of Sun Group. “Therefore, despite the difficulties, we are still determined to adapt to the new normal.”
As one of the leading enterprises in the industry, Sun Group was inevitably affected by the pandemic. In the past year, the group has initiated new projects and introduced new products and services. It caught up with the trend of healthcare tourism and resorts by opening Japanese-style hot-spring resort Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh in Quang Ninh province, and tropical village entertainment complexes on Phu Quoc Island.
At the same time, Sun Group is also applying modern IT solutions to optimise management and production. In the new year, Sun Group aims to complete its 3-pillar ecosystem of amusement parks, accommodation, and real estate in a synchronous and high-class manner across the country.
The major challenges of the past two years have brought precious lessons for tourism businesses to thrive. For those that have survived up to this point, it is thanks to the extraordinary efforts of leaders and the willingness to think outside the box in order to bounce back.
Many localities and businesses have reactivated the domestic tourism market with safe and attractive tourism products and the number of domestic tourists has increased gradually.
Nguyen Trung Khanh - Director general Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
There are many optimistic signals for the industry. In the first pilot phase, despite its short duration, Vietnam welcomed more than 1,000 international visitors.
There has been good feedback about the reopening policy, service, and product quality. We have not recorded any cases of COVID-19 infection from international travellers.
In particular, the reopening of commercial international flights also makes an important contribution to the recovery of the tourism and aviation industries. In the second phase starting from January, Vietnam is expanding the pilot programme to welcome more international tourists from Northeast Asian and European markets, specifically Russia. This phase expects to see more international air routes and more destinations reopen, and Ho Chi Minh City and the central province of Binh Dinh have been added to the list of localities allowed to welcome international tourists.
The pilot programme to welcome international visitors is aimed at re-exploiting the market and is receiving positive feedback from travel agencies and airlines that a large number of tourists will return in the near future. Currently, Vietnam is working with Thailand to set up a travel bubble scheme as Thailand has proved somewhat successful in welcoming international tourists in recent times. I hope in the near future ASEAN will have a common regulation on travel, and the reopening of international routes will solve this problem.
For the domestic market, many localities have restored domestic tourism activities, while a number of places have participated in a pilot programme to welcome international tourists. Localities have also joined hands with tourism businesses to build many new high-quality products at promotional prices that are suitable for the new context. I also hope that localities will establish a safe tourism corridor to reboot tourism and accelerate economic recovery and growth.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), approximately 5 million local visitors travelled in December, double that of November. The number of domestic tourists has increased rapidly at many tourist destinations across the country, especially on weekends, in areas such as Khanh Hoa, Dalat, Phu Quoc, and Lao Cai.
Tourism agents forecast that the number of tourists travelling in small groups and individual tourists will continue to increase, especially during the Lunar New Year holiday. Tourists are also likely to spend more on luxury services because of the number of discounts to be had.
Nguyen Minh Man, marketing and communications director of TST Tourist, said that besides the experimental tours and high-class tours with 5-star standards, TST is deploying other new tour types.
“Short-term tours are popular with tourists, promising to create a quick boost for tourism in Ho Chi Minh City,” Man said.
Meanwhile, the country’s reopening to welcome international visitors has created a new turning point for the tourism industry. After a short time of reopening, Phu Quoc and Khanh Hoa have welcomed 1,500 international visitors.
Vu The Binh, vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said that Vietnam will soon welcome guests from markets such as Dubai in the UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, and Russia.
Chairman of the Board of Vietravel Holdings, Nguyen Quoc Ky, added that Q1 of 2022 will see international visitors, mainly overseas Vietnamese, try harder to enter Vietnam after much time away. Therefore, Vietravel has reopened its four offices in the US, France, Australia, Thailand, and soon Singapore.
The VNAT has set a target this year for the country’s tourism industry to welcome 65 million visitors, including five million international visitors with vaccine passports. Total revenues from tourism in 2022 are expected to be about VND400 trillion ($17.4 billion).
“Many businesses have recovered, including those that play an important role in recovering and developing the tourism industry,” said Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung. “According to preliminary statistics, 35 per cent of businesses have been sustainably developing while 15 per cent are on the way to recovery. Hopefully, successful models will add confidence and help the remaining businesses continue to offer attractive tourism products that are suitable for the new normal and meet tourist demands.”
Nguyen Thuy Huong - Director, Halong Pearl JSC
My company has unique tourism products grown and developed on Halong Bay. The main group of tourists served by the company were previously international visitors from Europe. But like many other tourism businesses, we have suffered heavy losses in the past two years. And although we are constantly looking for opportunities to recover, it is really difficult.
In the first stage, the company aims to preserve the number of employees at all costs. During early outbreaks, we were still trying to support our employees. However, this effort could not continue when we were then forced to gradually reduce the number of employees. We only have 20 per cent of the workforce we had in 2019 and I feel sad about that each morning when I wake up.
Right now, the company’s tourist attractions are also on the list of the first tourist destinations in Quang Ninh that are allowed to welcome visitors. This is a good sign, but also a concern for businesses. The reason is that many employees with young children are still afraid to go to work, and secondly, the company cannot pay an attractive salary to encourage them to work as before.
I fully sympathise with the concerns of my employees and always give them a choice. For those employees who are ready to go to work, we also have a full range of safety measures in place and also support to create opportunities for them to earn extra income. To prepare well for the recovery, our main concern is to keep employees healthy and safety.
Nguyen Chau A - CEO, Oxalis Adventure
Before COVID-19, international visitors accounted for 80 per cent and each year we served about 10,000 foreign guests and 2,000 Vietnamese.
The pandemic brought many challenges to Oxalis, forcing the company to cease all foreign bookings, but also brought new opportunities when we again served up to 6,000 domestic visitors
Fortunately, Oxalis’s tours are also quite suitable for tourists now because they mainly travel in small groups. The location is in the forest and there is little contact with local people so tourists are quite fond of it. Like the Son Doong discovery tour in 2022, we have sold bookings for more than 900 guests, and about 100 more seats are left. That is a good sign for Oxalis and the tourism industry of Quang Binh province.
We still retained all employees and, since last December, we have started to pay 100 per cent of our employees’ salaries. However, things were not completely smooth and we have also had some valuable lessons, with our farmstay and land tour businesses having to close.
However, because of this we changed our investment mindset. Previously, Oxalis often invested in 3-4 expensive projects at the same time. But now we will switch to small and highly effective projects, because the current needs and trends of tourism have changed so much.
Andy Phan - Room director Mövenpick Resort Cam Ranh
Mövenpick Resort Cam Ranh officially opened for business in December 2019.
During that time, our resort continued to open and welcome guests and implemented measures to minimise costs as much as operationally possible, such as placing emphasis on Accor’s core eco-friendly principles of reducing energy and tapping into natural resources, whilst continuing to maintain its core services and facilities for guests.
In order to sustain financially, we implemented relevant marketing and sales initiatives to drive all potential revenue streams of the resort. Aggressive efforts to maximise its distribution reach were made via various communication channels, such as digital platforms and brand awareness, as part of the resort’s plans.
Due to the evolving situation of the pandemic, the resort adapts to levels of restrictions, with flexible business initiatives and operational needs to continue to provide a high-quality level of service that is expected by our guests and partners.
Meanwhile, in preparation for the eventual full resumption of international commercial flights, we are ensuring the resort has sufficient staff to operate the resort and serve our customers.
The resort continues to ensure the safety and health of our guests, suppliers, and staff alike, with the consistent implementation of Accor’s safety measures and working closely with local authorities for updates on the changing situation.