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Proudly Contributed By: Jaeyeon Choe

Vietnam has managed the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well, with no deaths recorded from the virus until late July, 2020. They did not have any corona cases for over 3 months. However, Vietnam just reported its first local transmission in 100 days, on July 25th, and recorded a total of 26 deaths as of mid-August. Having immediately shut down hot spots, the Ministry of Health noted that the COVID-19 outbreak is expected to be brought under control by the end of August.

While they have restricted international tourist arrivals, the Vietnamese government supports domestic tourism including offering locals free entrances to tourist attractions and discounts for hotels (up to 50%) to revitalise and boost the tourism sector. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recently launched the national campaign “Vietnamese travel in Vietnam” in May, and there were increased flight frequencies and destinations. During a webinar that I organised in June 2020, “Southeast Asia Tourism, COVID-19 and Silver Linings,” Dr. Giang Phi mentioned that local people now enjoy those beautiful luxury resorts that previously had served only foreign tourists. It is positive that local people finally get to enjoy their own tourist facilities and resources!

The Vietnamese government was also considering extended annual leave days for local people in September, so they can travel more. This was discussed before the outbreak on July 25th. Vietnamese people apparently travel a lot less after this outbreak. However, it is still worth discussing the importance of the domestic market for Vietnam’s long-term tourism development.

Vietnam had 80 million domestic tourists and 15 million foreign tourists in 2019 according to a World Bank Report. However, government statistics and research have been primarily focused on foreign tourists. These statistics overlook the significance of the growing middle-class, which has expanded purchasing power and new lifestyles that include a demand for leisure travel.

Boosting domestic tourism is important for the livelihood as well as sustaining the tourism sector during the pandemic. Domestic tourism can accelerate the destination authorities to diversify tourism products as well as to diversify destinations within a country. As most tourism products have been geared toward to foreign tourists in Vietnam, there is a need for research on domestic tourists’ activity and destination preferences. Sophisticated research should be done on domestic tourists’ behaviour, so as to develop tourism market diversification.

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