Restoration of tourism in condition of safe, flexible adaptability, effective control of COVID-19 pandemic
Communist Review - Implementing the guidance of the Governmen on the safe and flexible adaptability, effective control of COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector continues to promote the domestic and international tourist activities in combination with the safe guarantee, to prepare soon and from a far the solutions to gradually transfer the state to be adaptable to the new normal context, to carry out “the dual goals” and to conduct the anti-epidemic prevention and combat and the economic restoration and development.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on tourism sector
On the number of tourists, tourist revenue: The number of international tourists for the whole 2020 only reached 3.7 million tourist arrivals, 80% reduction as compared to 2019; the number of domestic tourists stood at 56 million arrivals, a 34% reduction year on year as compared to 2019; the total revenue from the tourists in 2020 only reached VND 312,200 billion, a 57.8% reduction as compared to 2019. In 2021, the tourism sector served abour 40 domestic tourist arrivals and about 3,500 international tourists; the total revenue from the tourists was put at VND 180,000 billion, a 42% reduction year on year as compared to the year 2020.
On tourism labour: In 2020, the enterprises had to cut their staffs from 70% - 80%. In 2021, the number of tourism workers that still worked their full time only accounted for 25% in 2020; the number of workers who had left their jobs and whose contracts had expired occupied about 30%; the number of workers who had to cease their jobs temporarily was put at 35%; the number of workers who worked on and off occupied 10%. The COVID-19 pandemic had made strong impacts on 2.5 million workers in the tourism sector with 800,000 direct workers, in which those who had lost their jobs and badly affected most were tourist guides, the workers working at the tourist accommodation establishements, tourism spots, the tour operators, transport, cruises and other tourism enterprises.
On the tourism enterprises: The number of tourism enterprises that had asked for the withdrawal of their tour business licences accounted for 35% of the total licensed enterprises; there were only 2,000 enterprises which had the licenses of tour operators nationwide, in which many enterprises had been closed and stopped their operation. The business of tourism accommodation that had occupied 46% in the revenue structure of the Vietnam tourism sector also had to close 90% of its business and almost there were no tourists (except for the establishments that welcomed the tourists in isolation).
It can be seen that the tourism sector had been heavily affected and it will take quite a long time to be recovered. In the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic was like a “tornado” that “swept clean”, paralyzed the global tourism activities. According to the report of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in 2020, the world tourism had undergone the greatest crisis in history due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic with the number of international tourists being reduced by 73.9% as against 2019, just to come back to the time 30 years before and it is predicted that it will take 2 to 4 years to restore the pre-pandemic growth in 2019.
In its 61-year long history, the Vietnam tourism sector has experienced a lot of crisis due to epidemics, natural disasters, economic recessions, but never has it been inflicted with such heavy losses as this crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic. The epidemics had developed complicatedly, making many countries take the measures to limit the travellings, causing no small impacts to the possibility of restoration of the tourism sector. Besides, the Vietnam tourism is yet to create the linkage chain strong enough to be able to compete with the regional countries. Besides, a lot of tourism workers who have lost their jobs have changed to do other jobs to make their living. So, after the pandemic, when tourism has restored, the tourism sector will have to confront with the big difficulty: it is the shortage of human resources.
Solutions to restore tourism sector
In the context that COVID-19 pandemic had made impacts on the activities of the tourism sector, the Political Bureau had given the guidance to the political system to carry out a lot of solutions in response to it.
The Government has also issued a lot of resolutions to deploy the policies to give support to the people and enterprises, in which there are contents directly dealing with the tourism area, like November 02, 2021, the Government Office issued the Official Dispatch No. 8044/VPCP-KGVX “On the pilot termporary guidance to welcome international tourists to Vietnam” in five localities with three stages; issued the general support policies (enterprises are granted with the extension of the tax-payment time, with the reduction of value added tax rate, the corporate tax rate, individual income tax and the land lease rents in 2021, the reduction and exemption of the loan interests rate, keep the loan interest rate intact and debt groups and delay the time to pay trade unions fees for the labourers and so on; the labourers are able to enjoy the support policy, such as the job-losing support, temporary delay of performing the labour contracts, job leaving without enjoying 15-day salary or 30-day salary and longer); issued the policies on the characteristic support for the tourism sector (reduction of the electricity price for the tourism accommodations from the retail price applied to business to equal to the retail price applied to the production sector, the 50% reduction of the evaluation fees of tour business licences, the 80% reduction of escrow to establish the tour operator enterprises. The perculiar tourism workers are the tour guides who will enjoy the support level of VND 3,710,000 per person and in the end of 2021, the total support to the tour guides was valued at VND 58.8 billion for nearly 16,000 tour guides).
After two years, the travelling had been limited, the requirement of travelling of the people had the tendency to get a boom. According to the survey by booking.com with 28,000 respondents from 28 countries in the world, it shows that, a lot of travelers were expecting to travel again right in 2021. According to the investigation of the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) under the Tourism General Department, the domestic travelers were ready to return right after the epidemic was put under control (about 35% was ready to travel immediately, over 50% was ready to travel during the next season, 70% respondents said they would travel by air).
In the situation when the epidemic was happening complicatedly as of now, the tendency and requirements of travelers had also changed, so the tourism sector has recognized it and is making efforts to meet that requirement by selecting the safe and friendly tourist destinations; travelers were ensured with health care as well as insurance. Travellers have inclined to know the detailed information of the health care system of the destination and the tourist insurance packages; tourism has shifted from international tourism to domestic tourism; to use the package tourism products, the already designed combo packages are reserved for small groups or family tourism; the application of information technology, artificial intelligence, Internet to get an insight before each traveling; tourists are able to use services flexibly. That is why, the tourism sector has orientated that enterprises and units doing tourism and supplying the tourist services should change their directions so as to be able to meet in time the requirements of their travelers, to give them better care, especially apply much more of information technology and artificial intelligence to the governance work, the introduction and advertisement of their products, services and images so as to meet the requirements and attract the attention of the travelers.
In the context that the COVID-19 pandemic was happening complicatedly, it is necessary to keep close contact to the guidance of the Government to carry out “the dual goal”, to prevent and combat against the COVID-19 pandemic and to focus on the economic and social development, the tourism sector has had in time the solutions, shifting from the state of “non-COVID” to the “complete, flexible adaptability, to control effectively the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically:
Firstly, to ensure safety in tourism activities.
The tourism sector has given the primary priority in ensuring the safe conditions for the tourism destinations, safety for travelers. Therefore, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism has given advisory ideas to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism issued the Tempprary Guidance No. 3862/HD-BVHTTDL, on October 18, 2021, “On implementation of the Resolution No. 128/NQ-CP on October 11, 2021 of the Government, issuing the temporary stipulations ‘Adapting to safety, flexibility, controlling effectively the COVID-19 pandemic’ in the cultural, sports and tourism activities” so as to have it deployed to localities and tourism business enterprises. Besides, the General Department of Tourism has built the system to assess the safety of COVID-19 to be applied to the tourism typical areas, the tour operators, the accommodation establishments, tour guides and the business units of tourist services at the address https://safe.tourism.com.vn. The travelers have been introduced and encouraged to use the application “Safe Vetnam Tourism” to make references of information on safe tourism, give a health account and assessment of destinations.
Secondly, to concentrate on promoting the stimulus activities, restoring nationwide domestic tourism.
The Ministry of Culure, Sports and Tourism issued the Plan No. 3228/KH-BVHTTDL on Sepember 7, 2021, “On deployment of stimulus policies to restore tourism and tour activities”, according to the spirit of the Resolution No. 63/NQ-CP on June 29, 2021, “On the main tasks and solutions of economic growth, disbursement of public investment capital and sustainable export in year-end months of 2021 and early 2022”, in which it is determined that one of the leading viewpoints is to combine restoration and development of tourism with raising the internal capacities and autonomy of the tourism sector, promote the domestic tourism development, considering it the internal strength, the fundamental foundation for the sustainable tourism development. Besides, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism continued to issue the Program No. 4698/BVHTTDL-TCDL, on Decdember 16, 2021, “On the program to lauch the domestic tourism of safe adabtability, flexibility, effective control of COVID-19 pandemic” and deploy across the board nationwide under the theme “Safe tourism – Complete experience” with two fundamental goals being: to restore tourism according to the roadmap from the inner provincial, inner regional market to the inland market, contributing to step by step recovering the tourism sector to be adaptable to safety and flexibility, controlling effectively the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting the requirements of sightseeing tours, tourism, tourist resort of the people; introducing and advertising the destination, products, experience of diverse and attractive tourism, ensuring the safety in prevention and combat against the epidemic, restoring the confidence in the market of safe domestic tourism. The Program focuses on two key activities: To guide the safe welcoming and serving of tourists (for the tourism offices, the tourism business units and tourists and those who use the tourist services) and organize the dissemination of information, advertisement and promotion of reopening the domestic tourism. The General Department of Tourism has organized the linkage activities with the destinations, the tourism associations, enterprises and aviation to build the package tourism programs of quality and incentiveness in order to stimulate tourism. The localities have created conditions and have the policies to support the enterprises, such as free of charge, reduction of charge and fees during the sightseeing tours at the destinations under the management of the local authorities.
Thirdly, step-by-step experiement in an advance to open the international tourism market
Implementing the guidance of the Government Prime Minister in the Official Dispatch No. 8044/VPCP-KGVX, on November 2, 2021, “On the experimental temporary guidance to welcome international tourists to Vietnam”, the General Department of Tourism gane advisory ideas to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourismto issue the Guidance No. 4122/HD-BVHTTDL, on November 5, 2021, “The experimental temporary guidance to welcome international tourists to Vietnam:. The experimental roadmap to welcome international tourists to Vietnam in three stages, in which the stage one opens to welcome international tourists to Phu Quoc (Kien Giang Province), Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang and Quang Ninh through the charter flights according to the package tourism programs in the areas and the selected tourism service establishments. In 2021, the tourism sector had welcomed about 3,500 tourists, and in January 2022, the sector continued to welcome international tourists from the markets of South Korea, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Thailand and India.
Fourthly, to enhance the communistations and advertisement activities to promote tourism, the application of information technology in tourism.
To deploy the communications campaign to restart the domestic tourism “The safe and attractive tourism”. To coordinate the organization of the events to launch and stimulate the market, of the tourism fairs, the seminars to introduce the destinations, to link enterprises, to flexibly combine between the direct and on-line forms, the survey programs of destinations and products. To deploy the communications to aim at the international tourists with the promotion, advertisement campaign of “Live fully in Vietnam” on the on-line TV channels of the General Department of Tourism, such the web page Vietnam.travel, the social networking sites such as Facebook, Instegram, Ointerest and so on.
Fifthly, to diversify the tourism products to meet the new trendencies of the market.
To plan the Vietnam tourism system for the 2021 - 2030 stage, the vision to the year 2045. To develop the new tourism products, to renew the existing tourism products in conformity with the changed requirements due to the impacts of te COVID-19 pandemic; to develop the nght-time economic forms and activities, contribu ting to increasing the spendings, raising the effectiveness of the tourism activities. The localities should determine the investment and development of tourism products according to the theme, on the basis of the position of strength and the existing potential of distinct character, thus creating the network of diverse products for mutual help.
Sixthly, to accelerate the process of digital transformation in the tourism sector.
To build the plan on the development of digital transformation for the 2021 - 2025 stage. To apply information technology, carry out the digitization of information and data in service of management of the accommodation estblishments, the tour operators, the tour guides, the destinations, the tourism service establishments; the date in service of the market study, the promotion and advertisement of tourism. To build the linkage platform in support of tourism business so as to gradually form the electronic products for the national tourism services.
Seventhly, to support enterprises to push ahead the process of recovery, to restructure tourism enterprises.
To follow up, synthesize, review, propose, petition the deployment of policies issued by the Government and ministries to support tourism. To guide the implementation of the support policies for enterprises and labourers in the process of recovery and stimulus of tourism. To support the market orientation, the product orientation as well as supporting the promotion and advertisement of destinations.
Eigthly, to support the development of human resources according to the reasonable structure, meeting the requirements of restoring tourism, restructuring the resources of tourism development.
To develop the human resources of tourism plays an important role for the short-term restoration; to serve the development of sustainable tourism, raise the long-term competitiveness. To build the plan, investment, to re-assess the tourism human resources. To invest in training and re-training the tourism workers to serve the hotel, tours, tour guide business, to promote the advertisement of tourism.
A number of proposals and recommendations
To restore the tourism sector in the new context, to support in time the tourism enterprises and the workers in the tourism sector to overcome difficulties due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare the conditions to stimulate the tourism activities in the coming time; to aim for the goal of 2022, Vietnam strives to welcome 65 million tourist arrivals, in which 5 million international tourist arrivals, about 60 million domestic tourists, with the total revenue from tourists being reached at VND 400,000 billion, it is necessary to carry out a number of policies as follows:
Firstly, restoring and developing tourism must be determined as one of the important contents of the Program on the economic and social restoration and development for 2022 and 2023. To organize the synchronous and resolute deployment of the effectiveness of the Program on tourism restoration and development, making a contribution to implementing the goals worked out at the Program on the economic and social restoration and development. To implement effectively and safely the reopening of international and domestic tourism from March 15, 2022, in the new normal context by air, on road, by sea, ensuring safety and synchrony with the deployment of the economic and social restoration and development Program of the Government. Based on the situation, the results in prevention and combat against COVID-19 pandemic and the assessment of the result in welcoming the international and domestic tourists. To grasp thoroughly the deployment of the Program on Launching domestic tourism of adaptable safety, flexibility and effective control of the COVID-19 pandemic at the Official Dispatch No. 4698/BVHTTDL-TCDL, on December 16, 2021 of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. To grasp the Guidance No. 3862/HD-BVHTTDL on October 18, 2021, of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on October 18, 2021 to implement the Resolution No. 128/NQ-CP on October 11, 2021 of the Government issued the temporary stipulations on “the safe and flexible adaptability and effective control of the COVID-19 pandemic in the cultural, sports and tourism activities. Localities have made public the door opening of tourism to welcome and serve tourists according to each degree of epidemic in the areas in combination with the measures to ensure the safety of corresponding epidemic.
Secondly, the task and solution of restoration and development of tourism must have the legal basis and must be arranged with sufficient resources for deployment. It is necessary to issue the policies to create favourable conditions for tourism, such as the setting up of the representative offices of Vietnam tourism abroad, digital transformation in tourism, promotion of advertisement, exploitation of markets, development of tourism products, attraction of international tourists from the key markets to Vietnam, to accelerate the domestic tourism, excite the spending of travelers to contribute to increasing the proportion of the tourism sector in the service areas, promoting the Vietnam tourism to develop to become the spearhead economy.
Thirdly, the ministries and sectors continue to study, make proposals and issue according to their authorities the fiscal policy, the monetary policy, the social security policy and other policies in order to support the tourism enterprises, the tourism workers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of policies propose to continue the support as follows:
- To prolong the application time of the policies on taxes, fees, to broaden the conditions for receiving the support of the policy on social security: To prolong the time to reduce the value added tax (VAT) for the services of the tourism area; the policy on reduction of the corporate tax; the policy on extension of the VAT payment time, the corporate tax, the individual income tax and the land lease rent to the end of 2023. To delay the time to pay trade unions fees for 6 months for the enterprises with the number of workers participating in social insurance with the reduction of 15% and more as against the point of time in January 2020 without being penalized for slow payment, prolonging the application time to the end of 2023; to reduce 50% for the licence grating fees for the tour business and provide the tour guide cards to the end of 2023; to reduce the electricity price applied to the tourism accommodation establishments equalling to the production electricity price. To implement the Decision No. 33/2021/QĐ-TTg on Noember 6, 2021 of the Government Prime Minister, “Amendment and addition of some articles of the Decision No. 23/2021/QĐ-TTG on July 07, 2021 of the Government Prime Minister, stipulating the implementation of a number of policies on supporting the labourers and the labour users in difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
- To propose the promulgation of the additional support policies: 1/ To allow to reduce 50% of the individual income tax in 2022 and 2023 for the areas: the transport services, the accommodation services, the catering service, the services of the tourism agents, the tourism tour business and the support services relating to advertisement and tour organization; 2/ To permit the enterprises doing business in the transport services; the accommodation services; the catering services, the tourism agent services, the tour business and the support services relating to the advertisement and the tour organization to borrow loans with low interest rates and simple loaning conditions; unsecured loans, mortgages by the net cash flow on sales, the loan interest rates is 3% per year, the loaning period is 30 months, in which the grace period is the first 3 months without paying interests and the principal; 3/ To apply the trade unions fees of 1% of the salary fund of the tourism enterprises in 2022 and 2023; 4/ Localities consider the policies on free of charge for the sightseeing tours to the end of 2022, helping the enterprises reduce the tour prices and to stimulate the stimulus and tours.
In 2020 and 2021, even though it was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vietnam tourism had still made imprints with winning a series of prestigious international awards such as Vietnam is the Cultural Destination, the Heritage Destination, the top Asian Cusine Destination, the best Golf Destination in Asia. The General Department of Tourism of Vietnam was elected as the top tourism management agency in Asia (the award was selected by the World Travel Awards - WTA). Vietnam was also rated 16th by the US Travel & Leisure magazine in the list of 20 destinations for individual tourism in 2021, the CNN Travel selected Vietnam for the 13th position out of 21 best destinations for 2021 based on the judgement of good control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, we are totally confident in the leadership and guidance of the Party and the Government, the harmonious coordination of ministries, sectors and localities, especially the great efforts from the community of the tourism enterprises, the Vietnam Tourism sector will be restored and ever more attractive, professional and sustainable, really become the spearhead economy, constributing to promoting the economic and social restoration and development of the country./.
This article was published in the Communist Review No. 988 (Avril 2022)