Hanoi (VNA) – Many Vietnamese travel agencies are sitting on a knife’s edge as the number of cancelled flights and tour bookings are on the rise due to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Given that tourism is highly exposed and vulnerable to natural disasters and epidemics, the industry is dealing with the hardest blow ever in years caused by the outbreak, which may take months to recover.

Vietnam’s tourism experienced a record high growth in December last year but things have changed fast after the virus started to spread further the next month, quickly pushing the sector into an unprecedented crisis. Domestic travel companies have suffered serious impacts of the epidemic as the number of tourists plunged up to 70 – 80 percent while the virus has forced local airlines to suspend a number of international flights.

Cancellations of flights and tour bookings have been more common, estimated to cause losses of thousands of trillion VND to the industry.

Many destinations have become deserted, said Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Society of Travel Agents (VISTA) and Director of Hanoitourist Phung Quang Thang, the epidemic is forecast to be far from over so it is unlikely that tourism can make a comeback in only a few months.

The coronavirus crisis would severely hurt many companies and workers in the industry, he said.

Authorities and travel firms are leveraging experience in coping with similar crisises in the past to minimise the impacts of the virus on tourism.

Tourism industry on knife’s edge over threat of coronavirus hinh anh 1People wear masks outdoor in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo: Getty Images).

Thang suggested local tour operators beef up cooperation with partners in foreign markets to provide them with professional and high-quality information about destinations in Vietnam to boost visitors’ trust in their services.

Travel firms should shift their focus to non-affected markets where tourism activities remain normal while proactively participating in both international and local tourism promotion events to lure more visitors, he noted, adding that it should be done immediately rather than to be waited until the disease is brought under control.

In this circumstance, the firms should give the top priority to promoting domestic tours, he continued, the VISTA will develop a major programme to stimulate travel demand when the outbreak fades.

Tourism industry on knife’s edge over threat of coronavirus hinh anh 2A worker disinfects a Vietnam Airlines plane to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

He also advised the firms to focus on selected destinations which are new or not hit by the virus to attract visitors.

Other experts recommended them develop new domestic tours and pay greater attention to ecotours and community-based tourism sites.

Last week, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism asked tourism departments of localities nationwide to keep close watch on the acute respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus originated from Wuhan, China and well control the situation.

In an urgent telegram, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien requested authorities of provinces and cities across the country to direct local tourism departments and grassroots authorities to do this work effectively.

The telegram said localities need to ask international travel businesses to suspend tours from virus-hit regions in China.

Relevant authorities must closely monitor health conditions of Chinese tourists in Vietnam and their schedule while travel agencies, lodging and other tourism services providers must do their best to ensure absolute safety for travellers and their tourism workers, it added.

It noted that if any suspected infection is detected, quarantine measures must be put in place in line with instructions by the Ministry of Health.

Communication campaigns should also be launched to warn people not to travel to affected areas, it noted./.