Pausing Tourism to Prevent Pandemic Spread

10:28:35 AM | 23/3/2020

In response to the spreading Covid-19 infection, following the direction of the government, many localities have simultaneously stopped tourist reception at places of interest to ensure safety for visitors and residents.

No receiving new tourists

Immediately after many people tested positive to the novel coronavirus (Covid 19) on international flights to Vietnam, most recently eight flights landing on March 16, many localities, including Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Quang Binh, Hue, Hoi An, Quang Nam, Phu Yen, An Giang, Kien Giang, Ben Tre, Dong Thap, Binh Dinh and Vinh Long, stopped welcoming visitors and tourists to prevent spreading the pandemic.

Being worried that the epidemic development could be complicated in the province, on March 16, Chairman of the Lao Cai Provincial People’s Committee issued an urgent official dispatch stating: “From March 8 to 14, 2020, Sapa Town welcomed 11,316 visitors from 69 countries and territories who stayed in the town (on average of 1,500 - 1,600 people a day). According to daily statistics, the number of visitors is tending to grow on the fact that many localities (10 provinces and cities) already stopped receiving new tourists to prevent the raging pandemic.

As of March 16, 2020 (after the Government stopped granting entry visas for tourists from England and 26 Schengen countries), many tourists from the above mentioned epidemic areas, subject to 14-day isolation and medical testing, still stayed in Sapa Town.

Consequently, the Steering Committee for the Covid-19 Epidemic Prevention asked Lao Cai province to consider stopping tourists from coming into the province in 14 days, starting from March 17.

On March 16, Chairman of the Vinh Long Provincial People’s Committee Lu Quang Ngoi also requested the Directors of the Departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Health, Transport, and Public Security; Chairpersons of District-level People's Committees to step up Covid-19 prevention and control in cultural, sports and tourism activities in the province. Accordingly, he requested heads of concerned agencies and District-level People's Committees to increase communications to raise public awareness of Covid-19 epidemic prevention and control in local cultural, sports and tourist activities. He also demanded restricting mass gatherings, especially weddings, funerals, anniversaries, and cultural and arts activities in the community.

Like many other localities, Quang Binh province decided to temporarily stop welcoming visitors and tourists into local tourist spots, historical and cultural relics, and landscapes from March 17, 2020. The province stopped receiving new visitors. Operators and managers of tourist areas, destinations, historical and cultural relics, and scenic places are cleaning and disinfecting these places and upgrading equipment to ensure safety for tourists when they reopen.

According to the Hoi An City Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, up to now, a foreigner in Hoi An tested positive for Covid-19 (identified as Patient 33 who travelled on the same Flight VN0054 with Patient 17). 43 direct contact cases (F1) tested negative. However, the risk of Covid-19 contagion is still very high. On March 16, Hoi An People’s Committee issued a notice on operational suspension of night markets, cultural services, sporting events, banquet restaurants, weddings and entertainment venues crowded with people to prevent and combat Covid-19.

On March 17, the Provincial People’s Committees of Kien Giang and Binh Dinh requested directors of provincial agencies and mass organizations and chairpersons of the District-level People's Committees to suspend tourist reception and prevent crowding.

Although no Covid-19 case has been found in Quang Tri province, in order to prevent the plague, Vice Chairman of the Quang Tri Provincial People’s Committee Hoang Nam signed an urgent notice on March 15 to the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, District-level People's Committees and Dong Ha City temporarily suspending tourist reception in historical and scenic sites and tourist attractions in the province, starting from March 19 until further notice.

According to the Dong Thap Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the complicated development of the Covid-19 epidemic caused a significant reduction in visitor arrivals in the province. In February, the province welcomed nearly 200,000 visitors to tourist attractions and destinations, down 20% from January. In particular, international visitors to Dong Thap were estimated at 2,000, a drop of 3,000 from January. Total tourism revenue sank 46% to VND48 billion in the month.

2020 is now considered one of the most difficult years for the tourism industry. In a regular government press conference in early March, Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung anticipated that tourists staying at hotels would decrease by 60% and tourism industry losses of about US$7 billion. Some businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, have temporarily suspended or narrowed their operations.

The decision to stop receiving tourists is expected to negatively affect local budget revenue, especially localities with key tourist attractions. However, this move is necessary to ensure effective prevention and control of the Covid-19 epidemic, circumvent public worries and ensure public health.

Domestic tourist stimulus program will return in an appropriate time

Facing the complicated development of the acute respiratory infection caused by a novel coronavirus (Covid-19), the Vietnam tourism stimulus program launched in mid-February to overcome Covid-19 epidemic consequences, had to be stopped to ensure the safety of visitors and many attractions, monuments and entertainment locations are closed.

Binh Dinh province, one of four destinations joining the Vietnam Tourism Stimulation Program, announced the temporary suspension of visitor and tourist reception to prevent the Covid-19 epidemic. In Official Dispatch 1571/UBND-VX to the Department of Tourism, the Department of Culture and Information, and District-level People's Committees in the afternoon of March 16, the Chairman of Binh Dinh Provincial People’s Committee agreed to stop receiving of visitors and tourists at historical and cultural relics, places of interest and tourist sites from March 17 until further notice.

The Dak Lak Tourism Association also sent Document 05/2020/HHDLDL to Vietnam Tourism District and the Vietnam Tourism Stimulation Union 2020 to request relevant agencies not to send tourist delegations to Dak Lak province as planned in the Vietnam Tourism Stimulation Program 2020. This reception program will be resumed after the province controls the Covid-19 situation well.

Mr. Vu The Binh, Permanent Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said that the Vietnam Tourism Stimulation Program was halted and tourism companies actively stopped receiving inbound tourists because they cannot guarantee their tours. The association will continue to maintain the stimulus alliance and encourage businesses to build products. The stimulus program will resume when the Covid-19 pandemic is under control. We will review the first phase of the stimulus program and prepare for the second phase even as the epidemic is developing more unpredictably.

By Giang Tu, Vietnam Business Forum