Many tourism businesses in Vietnam have expressed disappointment as China has not yet resumed outbound tours to Vietnam after three years of waiting.
Vu Huong Giang, chairwoman of the 5328 Mong Cai Travel Club in Quang Ninh Province that borders China, told VnExpress International that her business recently upgraded its infrastructure in preparation for the return of Chinese tour groups after nearly three years of absence.
But she “felt quite disappointed” as Vietnam was not included in the list of 20 countries that China allowed its travel agencies to organize outbound tours to starting February 6.
The selected countries include seven in Southeast Asia – Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Ngo Lan Phuong, CEO of Hanoi-based Kim Lien International Travel Co. which specializes in Chinese tourists, said that the news that China had yet to include Vietnam for outbound travel was beyond her company’s expectations.
As China announced the border reopening from January 8, her company rushed to make preparations such as carrying out market research and launching new tourism products with the desire to welcome large groups of Chinese tourists. However, this effort was in vain.
Nguyen Le Binh, a representative from Guangxi Overseas Travel Company in China’s Guangxi Province, said Chinese travel companies have not resumed selling outbound tours to Vietnam due to “procedural issues.”
“China has not resumed issuing tourist visas for Vietnamese tourists and vice versa,” Binh said. “Groups of Chinese citizens visiting Vietnam from January 8 until now are mainly those arriving on business visas.”
Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of leading tour operator Vietravel, also said Chinese people coming to Vietnam at this time are mainly on business trips.
“Vietnamese tourism businesses are eagerly waiting the return of Chinese tourists,” said Cao Tri Dung, chairman of the Da Nang Tourism Association. “They are ready in terms of both human resources and services and are just waiting for the government’s new policy to welcome Chinese tourists.”
A pre-Covid policy that allowed Chinese visitors coming in groups to visit Quang Ninh for up to three days without a visa has not been resumed either.
While Vietnam is keen for the return of Chinese tourists, Southeast Asian tourism hubs like Thailand and Indonesia welcomed large groups of Chinese visitors for the first time in three years.
Thailand received the first two groups of about 20 Chinese tourists each from Guangzhou on Monday. Southeast Asia’s second largest economy is expecting five million arrivals from China this year.
Though China has not restarted outbound travel to Vietnam, the aviation industry is busy preparing for the resumption of regular air routes to the northern neighbor beginning next month, amid kindling hopes about a recovery in Chinese tourism.
Vietnam Airlines plans to resume five to China, including Hanoi to Beijing and Chengdu, and from Da Nang to Guangzhou, Shanghai and Chengdu starting in March.
The carrier predicts tourism from China will resume beginning next month.
HSBC forecast Vietnam could receive three to 4.5 million visitors from China this year, equivalent to 50%-80% of pre-pandemic levels.
During a meeting with Xiong Bo, China’s ambassador to Vietnam, on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang suggested that Vietnam and China should soon resume tourism after a nearly three-year hiatus due to Covid-19.
In 2019, the year before the onset of the pandemic, China was Vietnam’s biggest source of foreign tourism with 5.5 million arrivals.
Vietnam last year received only 3.6 million foreign tourists, mainly South Koreans and Americans. The country is targeting 8 million foreign arrivals this year.
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