Dr. Pham Hong Long: Many lessons drawn in travel industry after COVID-19

Monday, 2020-08-03 12:13:00
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Assoc. Prof., Dr. Pham Hong Long (Photo: baodautu.vn)
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NDO – Assoc. Prof., Dr. Pham Hong Long, Dean of the Tourismology Department under the University of Social Science and Humanities, stated that COVID-19 has brought about many valuable lessons for the travel industry, who now must take prompt and sustainable solutions for resuscitation after the epidemic.

Questions: How do you evaluate the impacts of COVID-19 epidemic on tourism industry?

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Pham Hong Long: The COVID-19 epidemic has dealt a fatal blow to the tourism industry of Vietnam and the world in general.

The loss in the tourism sector has consequently affected other key sectors as tourism has close relations to aviation, trade, finance and banking, agriculture, fishery, transport, among others.

The adjustment of targeting domestic visitors instead of foreigners as before was first made as a temporary solution to help rejuvenate Vietnam’s travel industry, but now it has turned into a positive trend which may work in the long term. What do think about this?

Previously, we had attached too much attention to international visitors. It is true to say that they are an important component of Vietnam’s tourism; however, we seemed to be stuck cashing in on growing foreign tourist numbers rather than increasing their spending in the country, which stood at only US$96 per person a day. The figure is lower than the average rate of US$163 in Thailand or US$325 in Singapore.

Although there is not yet an accurate and comprehensive assessment of average spending of each Vietnamese visitor, revenue from domestic tourists is surely much larger than that from international visitors as the number of domestic travellers is around four times more than foreigners.

It is undeniable that the growing international visitors have shown Vietnam’s achievements in regional and international integration while contributing to promoting the country's image to the world. However, we have no choice but to promote domestic tourism at the current time with the complicated developments of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has brought many lessons to the tourism industry in Vietnam and countries worldwide in general. These are the lessons of balancing between the domestic and international tourism markets, market diversification, and establishing crisis reserve funds.

We should have an open-minded approach to learn good practices from our neighbouring countries in dealing with COVID-19. For example, a lesson learnt from Thailand, when less tourists visit the country due to fear of the epidemic, they took the occasion to launch a campaign to clean the environment in tourist destinations.

We are talking about sustainable tourism development, and one of negative impacts of tourism on the society is environmental degradation. Therefore, it is time to implement the campaigns on protecting the environment and fostering green tourism.

In addition to stimulating domestic tourism, what are the major tasks for the travel industry in the coming time to recover after COVID-19, in your opinion?

The epidemic has taught us many lessons, including the establishment of crisis prevention funds, which have received much attention from travel businesses. In addition, a fund to assist tourism development found mention in the Law on Tourism, which was approved by the National Assembly in 2017, but it has remained on paper. Therefore, more practical and detailed policies are needed to bring the fund to life.

We are glad to see that many tourism alliances have been set up after COVID-19, both domestically and internationally, including the handshakes between Hanoi and Quang Binh Province, and between localities in the northeast region.

Associations have also promoted their important role in encouraging businesses to develop new products and support each other to recover their operations.

We need to pay more attention to improving tourist products and services. We offer discounts for visitors while ensuring the quality of our services.

Greater care should also be attached to enhancing human resources, fostering promotion campaigns and advertising Vietnam as a safe and friendly destination.

While looking further ahead, we have to focus on diversifying our products in order to provide visitors with more exciting experiences, thus drawing high-spending and long-staying tourists.

Once sustainability and diversification in tourism sector are facilitated, the sector will become well-adaptive and resilient to irregular risks.

Thank you so much for your sharing!