According to travel experts, the COVID-19 epidemic has caused the tourism sector to be full of hardships but also offered an opportunity for the sector to look back and learn lessons from the crisis. One of the most important lessons is to re-realise the importance of domestic tourism in order to balance development policies among different types. Vu The Binh, Standing Vice Chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association said that previously, domestic tourism was not considered a key branch, so did not received proper attention. The demand, preferences, trends, favourite products of Vietnamese tourists or tourism services serving Vietnamese people have not been clearly shaped. The relevant agencies should develop a strong domestic travel market even after the pandemic is controlled completely.
The statistics of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism showed that the number of domestic tourists was only 30 million in 2011 but increased to 85 million (nearly tripling) in 2019, equal to an average growth rate of about 15% per year. Trip time as well as spending of domestic tourists is increasing by an average of 3.7 days and VND1-1.6 million. In 2015, the domestic tourists only contributed VND158 trillion to the total revenue of the sector and VND334 trillion in 2019, with an average increase of about 20.5% per year. This showed that during 2011-2019, before the pandemic appeared, domestic travel saw positive growth. Currently, Vietnam is controlling the epidemic quite well and a series of companies and travel service providers are offering promotions to stimulate demand, so the purchase of domestic tours and products has increased sharply. Airlines must continuously increase supply capacity and open more domestic routes. Many accommodation establishments in “favourite” tourist destinations have to announce “out of rooms” during the upcoming holidays. These are proof that domestic tourism is a potential market. If effective exploitation policies are implemented, this market will ensure the sustainable development of the whole sector.
In response to urgent requirements about the need to have a specific strategy to promote domestic tourism, towards increasing the resistance of Vietnamese tourism, Vietnam Tourism Association, in collaboration with the Ninh Binh Provincial Department of Tourism and Tourism Association, held the 2021 National Domestic Tourism Forum themed “Domestic tourism - The driving force to restore Vietnam tourism in the new normal state”. The event featured the participation of leaders from travel management agencies and nearly 500 enterprises around the country. At the forum, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung affirmed that in recent years, Vietnamese tourism sector has taken the number of visitors and revenue from the international market as a measure of the tourism development’s effectiveness. This is about to change. The tourism sector needs to go firmly on both international and domestic feet.
Linking and diversifying products
According to the tourism sector’s leader, four groups of measures should be implemented to develop domestic tourism. Firstly, travel businesses should soon restructure themselves and recalculate important and key aspects of domestic travel business. Secondly, it is essential to re-study the domestic tourism market. Thirdly, the linkages should be strengthened on the basis of developing unique tourism products and contributing to spreading their values. Lastly, relevant agencies should focus on gradually forming culture in destinations.
It is a fact that with international travel businesses having also shifted their attention to domestic tourism, the competition in this "territory" has become even more fierce. That situation requires tourism service providers to enhance their linkages and coordination to share benefits while finding ways to self-position their travel brands through the development of diversified but unique tourism products. According to Director of the Travel Department under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Nguyen Quy Phuong, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the needs and tastes of tourists regarding safety, experiences of nature and the ecosystem, small groups, short time, and technology applications. Therefore, the localities and enterprises should proactively innovate, create and develop new products in line with the customers’ demand.
In recent times, several units have built new tourism products that have attracted a large number of visitors such as tours to the Yoko Onsen Quang Hanh hot springs, Ha Long Bay by seaplane, Hoa Lo Prison at night, and air balloon experiences in Hanoi’s Ba Vi District. The introduction of these new products has contributed to creating an exciting atmosphere for the domestic tourism market, bringing more options to travellers. To promote domestic tourism in Vietnam, tourism development orientations must ensure security, safety and principles of respect for the environment, harmony with nature, respect for local culture and identity, proactive adaptation to the epidemic and sustainable development.
In addition, the experts noted that the Government, ministries and agencies should make policies and solutions to remove difficulties for the enterprises, especially small and medium-sized ones, in facing COVID-19 outbreaks. The direct assistance includes financial support, tax exemptions and concessional loans. The indirect supports are human resources training, the promotion of common destinations. The joint efforts from all tourism service providers, management agencies and relevant ministries will create a positive ecosystem for boosting domestic tourism development, thus ensuring the operation and growth of the tourism sector in the new normal state.