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Vietnam offers cut-price paradise to lure local travellers post coronavirus

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Vietnam offers cut-price paradise to lure local travellers post coronavirus

By James Pearson

 

2020-05-19T091417Z_1_LYNXMPEG4I0NW_RTROPTP_4_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-VIETNAM-TOURISM.JPG

Vietnamese tourists visit Ha Long bay after the Vietnamese government eased the lockdown following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

 

PHU QUOC, Vietnam (Reuters) - In Phu Quoc, a Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia, posters warning tourists of the dangers of COVID-19 have long since faded in the powerful sunshine, along with the throngs of international travellers that used to dot its beaches.

 

Vietnam recorded a 98% fall in visitors this April compared to 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but its success in fighting the virus, posting only 324 cases and no deaths, now sees it set to breathe life back into its tourism industry.

 

Vietnam will be one of the first Southeast Asian nations to start to revive its economy, but with a ban still in place on foreign visitors, and many of their major tourist markets under lockdown, hotels and resorts are discounting paradise to make it more attractive to local travellers.

 

At the Mango Bay resort in Phu Quoc, staff in surgical masks served icy cocktails and chilled glasses of white wine to small groups of guests, many of them young urban tourists, from Hanoi or from Ho Chi Minh City.

 

General manager Ronan Le Bihan said the resort now needed to adapt to local tastes.

 

"Tourist businesses targeting foreign tourists will be in trouble for a long time," said Bihan. "We can now focus on the Vietnamese market. But that is a very large term. And not all Vietnamese are interested in what we offer."

 

A tourism promotion campaign "Vietnamese People Travel in Vietnam" debuted last week and aims to "introduce quality tourism products and service packages at reasonable prices".

 

The move puts Vietnam ahead of its regional tourism competitors such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, where travel restrictions are only just starting to lift.

 

Tourism raised 726 trillion dong (25.46 billion pounds) last year, nearly 12% of Vietnam's 2019 GDP, but while barely 17% of the 103 million travellers were foreigners, they spent slightly more than domestic counterparts.

 

Warning of the risk of reopening to foreigners too quickly, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has called for the promotion of domestic tourism.

 

To lure local travellers, hotels and airlines have cut prices by as much as half, Vu The Binh, chairman of Vietnam Society of Travel Agents, and vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, told Reuters.

 

"The recovery of domestic tourism should boost international tourism," he said. "After this programme ends in mid-July, we will embark on another programme to promote international tourism, depending on the virus situation."

 

'TRAVEL BUBBLE'

 

Domestic tourism is on the post-lockdown agenda elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but tight travel restrictions mean its uncertain when it will resume. Indonesia's holiday island of Bali has said it could reopen to foreign tourists in October, and hotels in Thailand are gearing up for an eventual reopening.

 

One option being considered in Vietnam is to join a "travel bubble" with other countries that have successfully fought back the coronavirus.

 

Ken Atkinson, vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, said the first countries to target could be Australia and New Zealand, which are considering their own free-movement zone.

 

"However, as China and Korea are our two biggest inbound source markets it is important to have plans in place to reopen travel from those markets as soon as it is safe," he told Reuters.

 

Asian markets were likely to be the first to recover, said William Haandrikman, general manager of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, an iconic, colonial-era hotel whose crowds of wealthy Western tourists are long gone.

 

"We have had to re-invent ourselves to focus directly on the local domestic market as well as regional Asian markets," he said. That includes room deals with $100 credits for food.

 

Domestic tourism is now on the rise, with most Vietnamese airlines reporting their limited domestic flights are fast reaching capacity.

 

Lured by low prices, Le Thi Mai Phuong, a 38-year-old businesswoman from Hanoi, spent last weekend in the central city of Danang.

 

"I'm afraid that if we wait until the virus is over, the cost will go up and the beaches will become too crowded," she said. "We don't know if the virus will return to Vietnam and cause another lockdown".

 

"I'd have to stay at home and dream about travelling again."

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-05-19
 
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Visited Vietnam twice last year. HCMC and also Hanoi and HaLong Bay. I would like to do another visa run to HCMC. What are the chances of International flights opening up in July?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, snoop1130 said:

To lure local travellers, hotels and airlines have cut prices by as much as half, Vu The Binh, chairman of Vietnam Society of Travel Agents, and vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, told Reuters.

I went 4x last year, when I was on a trip in Ninh Binh I met up with a young medical professional from Saigon, and a Viet couple. The medical chap had really good English and had saved up for 3 years to afford his week in the North. When we were on a boat being rowed around the sights, none of them wanted to tip the lady rowing us (3 hours in the sun).

 

Can't really see foreigners being replaced by Viets and anyone being able to make a go of it.

They just don't have the discretionary spending.

Edited by BritManToo
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Vietnam is one of those countries where I'd like to stay long enough to make it worth being quarantined. Two conditions, as far as I'm concerned: Firstly, they need to continue to offer 3 month tourist visa and abandon their plans to limit stays to 1 month planned to start in July. Secondly, they need to give you the option to quarantine you at a hotel (that I would be willing to pay for, obviously).

 

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I went to Phu Quoc about a year ago, never again since my Russian isn't very good. Think Pattaya but more like Moscow. It was a nice quiet island about 10 years ago, but targeted for development and they went nuts. If you fly in directly to the big new airport, there is no need for a visa as long as you don't go to the mainland - so lots of direct flights to Russia.

Not many Chinamen yet since the Vietnamese don't like them much, but I can see Phu Quoc as a destination they will push them towards given the Visa free travel. This could easily outpace Phuket for those tourists.

But the rest of the country is brilliant and in many ways preferable to Thailand in my mind.

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18 hours ago, BritManToo said:

I went 4x last year, when I was on a trip in Ninh Binh I met up with a young medical professional from Saigon, and a Viet couple. The medical chap had really good English and had saved up for 3 years to afford his week in the North. When we were on a boat being rowed around the sights, none of them wanted to tip the lady rowing us (3 hours in the sun).

 

Can't really see foreigners being replaced by Viets and anyone being able to make a go of it.

They just don't have the discretionary spending.

My experience in Vietnam has been that they will only tip people who they want to impress. The doorman at a prestigious Karaoke, or attractive waitresses at a fancy restaurant, for example. 
My former Vietnamese girlfriend would nag at me if I tipped a taxi driver or the old lady serving us soup at the market, but called me Cheap Charlie if I objected to tipping the guy in a tuxedo at the nightclub, every time he topped up my beer.

I noticed a lot more “show of status” in Vietnamese culture, but it might just be that I’ve spent a lot more time hanging out with Vietnamese people than Thai or Khmer. These weren’t rich Vietnamese I was hanging out with either. 

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On 5/14/2020 at 3:40 PM, JusticeGB said:

Why even consider coming back? If I had the choice now and no daughter living in Thailand I would go to live in Vietnam.  This is no longer the land of smiles or the beautiful country I first visited in 1980. 

 

On 5/14/2020 at 6:36 PM, DrJack54 said:

I go to Saigon every month. Obtain four 3 month multi TV per year. $70usd for each. 

 

As mentioned, not from 1st July. Only 30 day visas issued, it seems.

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Yes it is a lovely place. I will go again. It’s so nice not to be in a racist, duel charging, country that doesn’t appreciate tourist. Wonderful Vietnam. Good luck. I used to go to Thailand for a 3 month holiday every year, now it will be Cambodia and Vietnam.

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