Pandemic likely to put tourism targets beyond reach

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a gloomy picture being painted of Vietnam’s tourism industry in the first quarter of the year, as it triggered an 18.1% decline in foreign arrivals and made it particularly difficult for the country to achieve this year’s targets.

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Visitors to a shop in Hoi An Ancient Town, the central province of Quang Nam, before the destination is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi welcomed some 133,740 foreign visitors in March, an 80% nose-dive compared to the same period last year. The total stood at 3.85 million for the first quarter, down 47.2% year-on-year.

The capital also posted a 38.8% decline in tourism revenue during the quarter, to VND15.69 trillion (US$665 million).

Ninh Binh province, another tourism magnet in Vietnam’s north, welcomed 1.47 million visitors in the quarter and earned VND761.33 billion in revenue, equivalent to 42.1% and 53.1%, respectively, of figures posted in the first quarter of last year.

Overall, foreign arrivals to Vietnam in March plunged 63.8% against February and 68.1% year-on-year. The first-quarter total stood at around 3.7 million, down 18.1% year-on-year, according to the General Statistics Office.

Sharp falls were posted in the number of visitors from major markets like Asia (down 21.1%), the Americas (20.2%), and Australia (14.4%).

Fewer tourists also meant less revenue in related services. Accommodation and catering services earned just VND126.2 trillion over the last three months and travel services VND7.8 trillion, down 9.6% and 27.8%, respectively, year-on-year.

Vietnam has targeted 20.5 million foreign arrivals in 2020. Hanoi hoped to attract 31.88 million visitors in total and Ninh Binh, host of National Tourism Year 2020, anticipated 7.78 million.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Vietnam’s tourism sector is forecast to endure a host of ongoing difficulties, making the targets of most localities and the country as a whole virtually unachievable.

The World Tourism Organisation has projected that the number of foreign tourist arrivals globally will fall by 1-3% this year, rather than grow 3-4% as forecast in January just before the outbreak.

Some, however, believe the industry will prove resilient when the pandemic is over.

Mauro Gasparotti, Director of Savills Hotels Asia Pacific, said the hospitality industry is likely to see the fastest and strongest growth among all sectors once recovery comes into view.

Vietnam’s reliance on local tourists, who accounted for 82.5% of travel in 2019, and the Chinese and the Republic of Korean markets could turn out to be an advantage, as these are expected to be some of the first who are able to travel again, he explained.

VNA