RMIT University (Vietnam) Tourism and Hospitality Management Senior Lecturer Dr Nuno F. Ribeiro said countries that have a fast recovering tourism industry post COVID-19 will be those whose governments prioritised health and wellbeing, and successfully contained the spread of the virus.
“The Vietnamese government has prioritised health and wellbeing during this epidemic, which is the most important thing in a people-intensive tourism industry,” Dr Ribeiro said.
“The local government has also supported tourism businesses with several initiatives which will be critical to allow a quick return to operations once the pandemic is resolved. This will be much easier to do rather than rebuilding an entire economic sector if no help is provided.”
Dr Ribeiro, who leads the tourism and hospitality research cluster within RMIT’s School of Business & Management, said the government’s fast and effective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic may even make Vietnam the preferred travel destination in the Asia Pacific region, over countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.
“For some people, travel and tourism is seen as a necessity, not a luxury. And tourists will not only travel to the most beautiful and interesting countries in the world, but primarily to the safest,” he said. “And Vietnam is doing a fantastic job in proving that it is one of the safest destinations in the world.”
In the space of only a few months, Vietnam went from millions of tourists to zero. Dr Ribeiro highlighted that this rapid decline has, and will continue to have, an enormous impact on tourism businesses, and affect the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people.
The latest initiative from Vietnam’s Prime Minister directed the State Bank of Vietnam to launch a credit support package worth 250 trillion VND (US$10.5 billion) for businesses, and the Ministry of Finance to offer 30 trillion VND (US$1.2 billion) for the same purpose, which Dr Ribeiro applauded.
“I think this is an excellent initiative, that will not only have immediate positive impacts right now, but also have positive effects in the future, not just for the tourism sector, but for the economy as a whole,” he said.
“While this truly is an unprecedented event, the history of tourism since 1945 shows us that, while tourism is vulnerable to cyclical crises, it also rebounds faster and stronger than any other economic sector.”
As an academic with more than 20 years’ experience in tourism, Dr Ribeiro believes there are some further measures available to help alleviate the negative impact of COVID-19 in Vietnam: continue to coordinate a gradual and safe return to tourism operations with the relevant ministries; provide tax rebates for tourism businesses and encourage management not to dismiss employees, but to retrain them so they are ready to re-enter the workforce soon after the pandemic is over; diversify Vietnam’s main inbound tourism markets. As this COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown, the dependency on two markets (China and South Korea) is not sustainable in the long term; learn from other places that have dealt with major disasters like Bali in Indonesia, or New Orleans in the United States; begin soft marketing campaigns using social media and advertising campaigns, aimed at potential tourists, or returning tourists who cannot visit Vietnam right now.
Dr Nuno F. Ribeiro