Connecting Regions of Asia.

Vietnam Opens Up To Tourists

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Vietnam is opening up to tourists , mostly domestic ones, taking the lead among South-east nations to open up its economy .
After record international arrivals in 2019, Vietnam suffered a 98% downslide in May this year .
But the country’s amazing success in tackling the C-virus epidemic has given the government the confidence to restart domestic travel . 
Thailand, famous for its sex tourism, is under emergency, and other neighboring nations are just about easing restrictions very slowly.
So Vietnam’s success in the battle against the C-virus and its ability to resume normal economic activities like tourism and manufacturing may give it a huge headstart .
For a country of nearly 100 million  bordering China, Vietnam has stood out throught the V-virus crisis.
 Only 329 cases have bern reported so far and no deaths. 
That owes to a decision to close borders speedily , quarantine tens of thousands, and raise mass testing to impressive levels. 
Clear official communication, affordable test kits and locally made protective equipment helped. Its lockdown lasted barely a month, and since mid-April, all new cases have been imported. 
By contrast, Thailand has roughly 3,100 cases, the Philippines over 20,000 and Singapore more than 37,000, mostly in migrant-worker dormitories.
The result is that Vietnam has been among the first countries globally to get its citizens holidaying again.
 Tourism makes up only about 9% of the $260 billion economy , much less than Thailand, where it accounts for a fifth of GDP.
But it still provides nearly  5 million jobs, many for lower-skilled workers. 
A “Vietnamese People Travel in Vietnam” campaign began just as the country’s airline industry resumed regular schedules. 
Last year, there were 85 million domestic tourists, who made up more than 80% of all visitors — a huge number even though they spend less than foreigners.
It’s an future glimpse  into what post-pandemic holidays might look like for all – a cautious edition of beaches and shore-close tourist-dependent towns of Europe crowded during peak summer .
Vietnam tour operators are also quietly optimistic that continuing virus fears will decimate sex tourism and Thailand’s loss would be Vietnam’s gain. 
The  Thien Minh Group, which runs everything from cruises to resorts, says that travelers favored shorter breaks closer to home, at the beach or in natural settings, with many still shunning flights. 
” I love the beaches near Quang Tri and  the visit freshened me up,” said mass communication teacher Nguyen Nga.
Discounts and safety were key motivators, though anecdotal evidence suggests hotels have preferred throwing in extras to cutting room rates, a harder move to reverse.
What about the next step, then, the return of foreign visitors?
 That may still be months away, despite airlines beginning to prepare for overseas flights. 
Considering Vietnam’s relative safety, that’s a glaring indication of just how long it will take to get the near-$9 trillion global tourism industry moving again.
As countries work towards bilateral agreements for travel, starting with priority business visitors, Vietnam has clearly taken an early lead.
Potential pitfalls abound. Who comes first, and when? Ken Atkinson, an industry veteran who is now vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, points out that to avoid politics, there are likely to be objective thresholds put in place: a month of no community transmission, for example. 
Countries that have managed the pandemic well — like South Korea or New Zealand — are likely to be among the first in line. 
The focus for Chinese tourists, key for Southeast Asia, will probably be on the Golden Week holiday at the start of October.
It’s likely to be a progressive opening on the Vietnamese side, with easily contained holiday islands like Phu Quoc or resort towns going first, says Steven Schipani, who looks at tourism in the Mekong region for the Asian Development Bank.
 Tourists won’t accept long quarantines, but testing is likely to be part of the deal, on both ends of the trip. That is something Vietnam will not compromise on.
( Cat Hoang Anh works for the Voice of Vietnam and is a regular contributor to Easternlink)

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