About 95 percent 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 needs new solutions to overcome the current crisis, Tho said.
Opening borders to foreign tourists is the only solution to recover the tourism sector that contributed 9.2 percent of total GDP in 2019, he said.
The effective control of COVID-19 is an advantage for the domestic tourism industry to be able to welcome foreign tourists from the beginning of the third quarter of 2021. Now, regional countries with developed tourism sectors have plans to open borders to welcome back international visitors, reported the Dau tu (Investment) newspaper.
Specifically, Thailand has announced it would reopen the tourism market for foreign visitors from July 2021, Singapore welcomes international visitors who have negative COVID-19 test certificates and Indonesia will open its doors to Bali. Meanwhile, the European Union is planning to provide a "vaccine passport" to help people travel freely. This also helps the tourism and aviation industries resume operations, according to Tho.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, Deputy Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said the administration is studying a plan to reopen the tourism market for international visitors.
Vietnam cannot receive massive numbers of foreign tourists, but it cannot be slow due to competition from other regional countries. The domestic travel companies can choose key markets with high demand visiting Vietnam, build tour packages and choose a convenient airport destination and an independent resort to receive the international visitors, Huong said.
Many localities want to welcome international and domestic tourists but they are afraid of the pandemic, so they do not dare do that, she said.
Luong Hoai Nam, member of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Council (TAB), said the vaccine is a basic measure and the only way for the world to get rid of COVID-19. The population that gets vaccinations becomes a safe community. This group has about 200 million people and this figure is growing rapidly, especially in developed countries.
Many foreigners are beginning to think about finding an attractive tourism destination after getting vaccinated. That is a good opportunity for Vietnam to recover plans on economic development, including tourism and aviation sectors. It should not wait for the pandemic to end to plan re-opening its tourism market for foreign visitors. It needs to have this plan now for vaccinated visitors, Nam said.
He said before having the COVID-19 vaccine, a safe area is a well-controlled place like Vietnam, but when this vaccine is available, the safe area is a place with high vaccination rates like Israel. There will be more countries with high vaccination rates including the US and Europe. Therefore, Vietnam should not be slow to receive visitors from safe areas as well as building up tours for Vietnamese tourists to those safe areas.
Vu The Binh, Permanent Vice President of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said the opening of the tourism market for foreigners may face opposition from many, but Vietnam needs to prepare plans to recover the tourism sector. The association will have a plan to welcome foreign visitors back from the third or fourth quarter of 2021.
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 Lunar New Year, according to Dai Doan Ket newspaper.
Nguyen Minh Man, head of the TSTtourist Company's Communications Department, said that in March, the company organised many tours from HCM City to domestic tourist destinations such as Phu Quoc, Sa Pa - Hanoi - Ninh Binh, Da Nang, Buon Ma Thuot, Phan Thiet, Da Lat and Hue. It will increase the tours in April.
Other companies also welcomed many groups of tourists in HCM City and to neighbouring provinces such as Dong Nai, Binh Duong and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
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.
However, the travel businesses want to have affiliate programmes between parties, including aviation, railway, road, service providers, travel agencies and hotels to create attractive tour packages.