Hanoi (VNA) – It is time for the tourism sector to restructure itself as the COVID-19 pandemic is not ending soon, according to director general of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Nguyen Trung Khanh.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) forecast that the world may lose up to 1.1 billion international tourists and 1.1 trillion USD to COVID-19 this year while around 100 – 120 million workers in the tourism industry are left unemployed.

Vietnam is no exception. Just after posting a record high growth in January, the country’s tourism industry fell to the bottom for the first time in history due to the outbreak of the pandemic.

Over the last five years, Vietnam has remained as one of the world’s fastest growing travel destinations with the number of foreign visitors increasing about 22.7 percent annually, Khanh told a workshop on restructuring Vietnam’s tourism market in Hanoi on November 19.

Tourism sector urged to restructure to weather COVID-19 crisis hinh anh 1Tours to traditional craft villages are attractive to not only foreign tourists but also domestic travellers. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

International tourist arrivals in Vietnam is predicted to fall over 80 percent to just 3.7 million while domestic arrivals are likely to shrink by half this year, meaning the country may lose around 23 billion USD in tourism revenue, including 16 billion USD from foreign travellers and 7 billion USD from the domestic market, he said.

About 95 percent of inbound tour operators across the nation have suspended operation so far, he continued, occupancy rates of hotels in major tourist spots only reached 10 – 15 percent and many hotels have been forced to shut down and make layoff decisions.

Khanh emphasized that it is time for the tourism sector to restructure itself, noting that it must develop new, exciting and distinctive tours, apply smart technologies, promote digital tourism, and attract more domestic holidaymakers.

The sector must also seek ways to diversify the inbound market because though international visitors only make up one fifth of the total tourist arrivals, they contribute 55 percent of the total revenue, he added.

A recent independent survey indicates that social changes at the time of the COVID-19 crisis is continuously affecting tourists’ behaviour and their choices. Most people feel hesitate and have higher standards of safety when it comes to travelling. Notably, more and more families are experiencing financial hardship after the second coronavirus wave hit the country, making travelling an even harder decision.

Tourism sector urged to restructure to weather COVID-19 crisis hinh anh 2Vietnamese young people are in favour of untouched destinations. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

As the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over on a global scale, the domestic market is clearly the only lifejacket for enterprises in the industry, helping them maintain operation and recover growth, according to Khanh.

However, tourism products and services for the domestic market remain undiversified. Local travellers mostly visit popular destinations such as Ha Long, Da Nang and Nha Trang while many new destinations are not attractive enough to visitors because of underdeveloped infrastructure and poor services.

Tram Nguyen from Google said that a recent survey by Google shows that Vietnamese people are among those most optimistic about travelling after the pandemic ends, and they think about reputation of a tourism business before anything else, even the rates, when choosing between services providers.

The findings suggest that to attract tourists, firms must constantly improve their service quality and renew themselves to satisfy increasing demand, she said.

“Enterprises should constantly invest in developing digital channels, improving service quality and making their tours more appealing to meet needs of different groups of people so as to create sustainable success,” she noted.

Tourism sector urged to restructure to weather COVID-19 crisis hinh anh 3A group of young people go trekking to conquer Ta Lien Mount in the mountainous northwestern region. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Many new destinations with magnificent landscapes in Vietnam remain untouched, said Nguyen Minh Tam, deputy head of Vietnam Airlines’ sales and marketing division. If they do not have their own distinctive tourism services, it is more likely that visitors will not return for the second time.

Tam revealed that travel agencies are cooperating with local administrations to survey new destinations in the northern provinces of Son La and Thanh Hoa.

Experts at the event also advised businesses to develop new tourism services, such as medical tours; meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tours, cultural and sports tours so they can survive the COVID-19 crisis in the long run./.