Vietnam is the first Southeast Asian nation to reopen tourism sector

14 May 2020

Tourism As of May 11, Vietnam has reported zero coronavirus-led deaths and only 288 positive Covid-19 cases, with no community transmission recorded since early April. 

Taking into consideration the fact that Vietnam borders with China, has a population of almost 100 million people and a population density greater than China, Indonesia or the UK, the country’s handling of the global pandemic is one that other countries should take example from. 

Vietnam has managed to significantly flatten the curve maintaining low costs by taking early action, a targeted approach and solid political leadership. 

As a result, Vietnam has come out as the first Southeast Asian country to revive its waning tourism industry, ahead of other leading nations in the region such as Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Other countries including Indonesia and the Philippines are still under strict lockdown measures. 

Vietnam has resumed domestic flights, while buses, trains, restaurants and retail outlets are also back in operation. Vietnam proceeded to reopen these services and facilities on April 23. 

On January 3, Vietnamese hospitals and local health departments were places on high alert for cases of the “new pneumonia”. When China recorded its first death on January 11, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health began distributing urgent messages to government agencies only a few dats later. 

Vietnam’s early reaction to the pandemic is likely cited as the reason the country’s tourism industry is now reopening fast ahead of its neighbouring states. 

Vietnam Airlines is currently in talks with the government to resume operations of some international flights in June. Discussions about creating reciprocal travel bubbles with China and South Korea are also underway, possibly giving Vietnam headway against Thailand, whose tourism sector is also key. 

Kenneth Atkinson, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, a non-profit organization made up of industry leaders and stakeholders, said the government has been asked to hold “early bilateral negotiations with source markets that have contained community transition.

“[The first bilaterals] are with the markets we need the most, i.e., China and South Korea,” said Atkinson, who is also founder of Grant Thornton Vietnam. “Then Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan, although Singapore isn’t looking too great right now with the cases from migrant workers.”

China and South Korea combined comprise 55% of tourist arrivals to Vietnam, making them “really critical”, says chief operating officer of Indochina Capital Michael Piro. Out of the 18 million tourists visiting Vietnam last year, 6 million were from China and 4 million from South Korea. 

Creating a travel bubble with the two nations will prop up businesses and leisure travel, Piro added.

“A lot of manufacturing companies have already shifted to Vietnam from China. FDIs [foreign direct investments] are a mirror of our tourism flows. Chinese and Koreans are our biggest investors; they are also our biggest tourism sources. As those travel bubbles open up, FDIs will start to flow in again and tourism money will start to flow back.”

Last year, Vietnam saw foreign investment increase by 7% to $38 billion.