Vietnam’s travel firms move to optimise Japan’s tourism rebound

Many travel companies of Vietnam are taking actions to make use of the rebound of tourism in Japan in recent months after the Japanese Government eased entry restrictions.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, tourism was a major contributor to the economy of Japan. The number of foreign visitors to this country continually broke records between 2013 and 2019, and hit an all-time high of 31.88 million in 2019. However, the pandemic triggered a nosedive in this figure to nearly 4.12 million in 2020 and 246,000 last year, mostly due to border closures.

The Northeast Asian nation reopened its borders to international tourists in mid-June 2022 after an over-two-year shutdown, but certain restrictions remained.

On October 11, it completely lifted border control measures for foreigners and reintroduced the visa-free policy for short-term travellers. Besides, the depreciation of the Japanese yen compared to the US dollar and Vietnamese dong has also helped Japan become more attractive to foreign tourists.

Estimates by the Japan National Tourism Organisation show that in October, this country welcomed 498,600 international arrivals, more than doubling that in the previous month and surging 22.5-fold from the same period last year. Notably, visitors from Vietnam numbered 30,800, shooting up 30-fold year on year.

In the first 10 months of 2022, Japan recorded over 1.5 million international arrivals, up 616.7% year on year. That included 222,400 visitors from Vietnam, soaring 809.9% and ranking second among sources of foreign tourists to this country. 

Talking to the Vietnam News Agency, Le Thi Lua, a Vietnamese entrepreneur who has lived in Japan for 24 years, said Japanese people like the Vietnamese cuisine very much. The economy of Japan has been recovering after the pandemic while its Government has also completely reopened to foreign travellers since October, which is generating numerous opportunities for the restaurant and hotel sector.

Given this, she decided to open an 80-seat restaurant named Vietnam Sky in Arakawa Ward in downtown Tokyo. She said the newly opened restaurant has attracted many customers, including both Japanese and Vietnamese.

In recent months, Yo Group, a company supplying low-cost Japan tours for Vietnamese travellers, have also made preparations to welcome tourists from the Southeast Asian country, including purchasing some new buses.

Meanwhile, the number of Japanese visitors to Vietnam remains modest though Vietnam has fully reopened to foreign arrivals since March 15 and dropped the COVID-19 testing requirement for air travellers since May 15, and many airlines, especially national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, has increased flights between the two countries.

Vietnam welcomed over 484,300 international arrivals in October, up 112%, including 23,800 from Japan - ranking fifth among sources of foreign visitors to Vietnam. The 10-month number of foreign visitors approximated 2.14 million, including only more than 77,200 from Japan, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

Masahiko Inada, head of the outbound tourism promotion division at the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA), said Japanese people love travelling Vietnam, but they are still a little worrying about pandemic safety when it comes to overseas trips.

However, he held that the number of Japanese travelling abroad will gradually bounce back.

Echoing the view, Tran Thuy, Director for Vietnam at Vivu Journeys of the Thien Minh Group (TMG), said Japanese people are generally prudent tourists and pay attention to all safety factors. 

To attract Japanese visitors to Vietnam, the TMG has designed suitable packages for them while expanding its hotel system, she said, adding that it has worked almost continuously for the last two years, when it has carried out many investment activities but many other firms chose to “hibernate” amid international tourism suspension.