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|Vietnam’s tourism safe haven in stormy times|
Tomasso, a 26-year-old Italian has been to 28 countries in the world. Now, he is adding his 29th destination to the list and chose Vietnam for his two-week trip.
“This country is surprisingly beautiful and peaceful,” said Tommaso with the brightest smile on his face, as he was boating on the river covered by water-fern through Tra Su Cajuput Forest - said to be Vietnam’s green paradise.
While most countries in the world are busy coping with the appearance and threatening development of COVID-19, many holidaymakers have called off their journeys in fear of infection. Meanwhile, more optimistic travellers are utilising this chance to make their dreams come true.
“It is not much of a problem here, unlike what we were told in the media,” Tommaso continued. “I am even planning to extend my stay in Vietnam, because the situation in Italy is kind of alarming at the moment. Who knows, it seems to be safer here.”
BUSINESS AS USUAL
Elsewhere, the coastal town Mui Ne is right in its busiest tourist season of the year, and amid becoming one of the international hotspots of the country and one of the most-visited destinations in Asia-Pacific by 2030.
Unlike during the previous peak seasons, Mui Ne has been seeing very few Chinese and South Korean arrivals in January and February, who last year accounted for 28 and 13 per cent of total international tourists to the locality, respectively. However, resorts, hotels, and tourist areas here are by far not empty, with thousands of globetrotters from Europe and Australia flocking to the location.
Danish national Magnus Wrightson just came to Vietnam the very first time. He arrived with his girlfriend in Mui Ne after a five-hour bus trip from Ho Chi Minh to spend a romantic time together and celebrate their Valentine’s Day getaway.
Getting to know about this place via a friend, Magnus immediately decided to visit this “all-year sunny and windy” destination.
“We have been here for one week already. Everything is just amazing, local people are also warm and hospitable,” said Magnus.
“We do not talk about the scary coronavirus here. We are on vacation! We should make the best out of it and enjoy every moment instead of being worried,” he added.
Meanwhile in the central coast region, Polish tourist Damia and his 4-year-old daughter were building a sand castle on the beach. Last November, Damia booked a Danang-Hoi An-Hue tour through a travel agency. Soon afterwards, the news about the COVID-19 epidemic spread dramatically fast, raising lots of concerns. His family, therefore, many times considered cancelling the trip and constantly contacted the travel firm in Vietnam.
“They kept us updated with the latest news about the situation in Vietnam, quickly and informatively. Thanks to the collaboration with our travel agency, we found out that Vietnam has been doing a great job in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and there are also no infected cases in these destinations. We are happy we did not get too worried and headed to our planned trip to Vietnam. Otherwise, we would have missed such a wonderful time. Obviously, everything has been great so far,” Damia shared.
Up north in the capital city of Hanoi, groups of tourists are still flocking to the Old Quarter and its surrounding areas to enjoy the spring atmosphere. They are heading on sightseeing tours on cyclo rides or double-decker buses, perusing the shops around the small streets, and enjoying Vietnamese food. Most of these tourists are from Europe, the US, Australia, and India.
Elise Quinn, an Australian tourist upon entering Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi stated “I think the Vietnamese government and tourism industry have been doing a good job in keeping visitors safe. Some of the sightseeing spots I have gone to are properly equipped with protective utilities for us tourists, and we also get our body temperature checked upon entering several places. I really appreciate Vietnam’s efforts in preventing and combating COVID-19.”
The encouraging words from international tourists coming to Vietnam are echoed by many other people and strongly contribute to listing the country among the safe travel destinations.
This trust also helped reviving the country’s tourism after a short time of a sharp downturn. During January and February, when COVID-19 was spreading quickly in some countries, a large number of Asian people have locked themselves in at home.
The consecutive disappearance of tourists, especially from Vietnam’s main tourist markets, such as China, South Korean, and Japan has caused a slash of 50-60 per cent in the average number of international arrivals, which then led to heavy losses among all related businesses, with total estimated damage at around $7 billion.
On the other hand, surveys at a number of tourism businesses showed that visitors from Europe, America, and Australia still enjoy their planned trips regardless of the COVID-19 outbreak, with only a minimum number of called-off tours.
In mid-February, two yachts carrying 1,200 passengers from Northern Europe, North America, and Australia docked at Tien Sa Port in Danang City and Chan May Port in Thua Thien-Hue, taking tourists and crew to visit these two stunning tourist hotspots. Other famous tourist destinations of Vietnam such as Can Tho, Ho Chi Minh City, and Halong are also filled with thousands of foreign visitors.
The fact that travellers trust to stay in Vietnam and continue to choose the country as their holiday destination surely comes from the country’s joint efforts of authorities and companies.
After the WHO highly praised Vietnam’s actions in containing the epidemic, the country continued to receive positive comments from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Erika Elvander, director of the department’s Asia-Pacific Office, highly appreciated the medical capacity of Vietnam, especially in controlling COVID-19.