Tourism has been one of the industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic across the world and Vietnam is no exception, with foreign tourist arrivals and tourism revenue falling by more than 50 per cent in the first half of this year.
|Ta Hien Street in Hanoi's Old Quarter, often crowded with tourists, was almost empty during the period of social distancing. VNS Photo Doan Tung|
Though the industry may be taking a beating, respondents to our survey were broadly in favour of a cautious approach when it comes to opening Vietnam’s borders to tourists.
More than 78 per cent of the readers we surveyed agreed that the country should reopen borders gradually and in line with the developments of the pandemic abroad, a tactic that is being considered by the Government.
This sentiment was echoed by Hoang Nhan Chinh, Secretariat Director of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, who told Việt Nam News that while the industry needs borders reopened so it can recover economically, health and safety best be priorities.
“We stress that the health and safety of our citizens has to be balanced with the economic considerations and gains,” he said.
Notably, expat respondents to our survey were more strongly in favour of keeping the borders shut than the local Vietnamese we surveyed, feelings possibly inspired by watching the devastation the coronavirus has caused to their home countries.
While 53 per cent of Vietnamese respondents disagreed with the notion of opening the border as soon as possible to boost tourism, the figure for expats was 60 per cent. A mere 11 per cent of Vietnamese respondents were strongly against opening the borders quickly, while the figure for expats was 29 per cent.
While there is no concrete date for reopening to international arrivals, our survey respondents indicated that they thought it should happen this year, instead of waiting until 2021.
More than 41 per cent of those surveyed disagreed with the notion of waiting until next year to reopen the border, though the neutral response of just over a third of those surveyed indicated just how difficult planning amid a pandemic is.
There was broad agreement that Vietnam has done enough to help those stuck within its borders on tourists visas, with only 11.8 per cent of our respondents feeling more should have been done to help international visitors.
“As soon as the pandemic hit Vietnam there was a duty to look after foreigners in the country on a tourist visa.
“Here at the tourism board we created a specific coronavirus page on our website to inform travellers of the COVID-19 situation in Vietnam, including visa policies, flights and site closures,” Chinh said, adding that the board also opened an English-language hotline to aid marooned travellers and used social media to answer questions.
There is some good news for the local tourism industry as once travel can resume, Vietnam will be a more attractive destination than before the pandemic, according to our readers.
Almost 80 per cent said the country had become more attractive to international visitors and Chinh agreed.
“The response from Vietnam around the pandemic should act as a testament to the measures the country will do to keep everyone here safe.
“Foreign tourists can remain reassured that Vietnam will only reopen borders when it is safe to do so, yes this may take a little longer but at least tourists will know it is a COVID-free destination once open,” he said. VNS
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