The resumption of international tourism has stirred hopes of a recovery, but travel firms say it will be a long time before the industry returns to pre-pandemic levels.
“With foreigners only required to test negative for Covid-19 and not quarantine, Vietnam now has one of the most competitive tourism policies in the world,” Nguyen Cong Hoan, CEO of Flamingo Redtours, said.
The decision to waive visas for citizens of 13 countries would also help boost tourism, especially from key markets such as South Korea and Japan, he told VnExpress International.
Vietnam lifted all entry restrictions on Tuesday after two years, a decision considered one of the final efforts by the government to “live with the pandemic” and return to normalcy.
After the long hiatus Vietnamese tourism companies could start promoting inbound travel again, Nguyen Minh Man of TST Tourist said.
His company is working to sell tours in a number of Asian markets such as Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, and India, he said.
Vietnam has a great opportunity to attract tourists if it offers visa exemption to people from more countries and increases promotions, he said.
But some industry insiders said it would take months, even years, for inbound travel to return to 2019 levels.
Vietnam received 18 million foreign travelers that year before the pandemic brought tourism to a standstill.
Hoan said with international flights resuming last month and now international travel, it might take until the third quarter for tourism demand to pick up.
“Tourism demand is closely tied to aviation. With limited international routes and flights now, customers do not have a lot of choices.”
In the first two months of this year there were 33,119 flights, or 61 percent of the number in the same period in 2019, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam.
Airlines are seeking to take advantage of the travel resumption.
Vietravel Airlines launched two new routes from Hanoi to Quy Nhon and Da Nang Wednesday and plans to increase its number of flights should demand rises.
Vietjet is set to resume all of its pre-pandemic services by May and start directly flights to Australia and Europe by June.
But a concern for tourism firms is the inconsistency in reopening globally.
Flamingo Redtours plans to focus on some Asian markets in the second quarter, but Hoan is concerned that the restrictions still in place in some countries (such as Japan and China) could discourage tourists.
CEO of Saigontourist, Nguyen Huu Y Yen, said the demand for inbound tourism is expected to be from October to March, and a strong recovery is unlikely until next year.
Industry insiders look to some major tourism initiatives to boost travel demand this year, such as the National Tourism Year, which kicks off in the central province of Quang Nam this month, and the Southeast Asian Games in May.
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