Travel agencies look to set up criteria for 'safe destinations'
Update: Oct 27, 2020
Leading tourist companies in Ho Chi Minh City are seeking to establish criteria for safe destinations to reboot tourism and prepare for international arrivals in the near future.
Leading tourist companies in HCM City are seeking to establish safe destination criteria to reboot tourism and prepare for international arrivals in the near future. (Photo: VNA/VNS)
Speaking at a seminar on safe tourism held recently in HCM City, Tran Minh Hung, Editor-in-Chief of the Saigon Times group, the seminar’s organiser, said: “In order to attract international tourists in a sustainable way, safe destination criteria must first be established.”
He added that the criteria must offer clear and easily understood information to make tourists feel protected amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A survey conducted by Outbox Consulting Services and Destinations Management Company showed that 92 percent of respondents were worried about sanitation and safety at accommodations.
Eighty-three percent of participants did not want to travel if they must participate in a quarantine process at their destination.
Eighty-three percent of visitors also thought that quarantine areas had the same risk as infection as other areas.
About 79 percent of respondents believed that publicising and following the Government’s safe tourism criteria was the most important factor.
Dang Manh Phuoc, Director of Outbox Consulting, suggested four core goals of safe criteria for service providers and visitors.
Firstly, businesses and personnel in the tourism sector must be trained in implementing regulations on the prevention of COVID-19.
The second goal is ensuring community health and safety standards, and the third is creating the belief that Vietnam is a safe destination for visitors.
Finally, new attractions and destinations should be publicised widely to lure visitors.
Phuoc said the four goals could promote confidence among visitors, and connect visitors and tourism businesses and individuals.
Nguyen Viet Anh, head of the travel section of the HCM City Department of Tourism, said: “Localities need to work with others to create unified safe criteria to reboot tourism promotion.”
Technology applications are important as well. For example, building a safe tourism app is a way to manage and control the safe criteria.
The department has promoted, via publicity, safe and attractive destinations, which is an important step to prepare for international visitors in the upcoming time.
According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam, total foreign arrivals in the first nine months was 3.79 million, a decrease of 70.6 percent in comparison with the same period in 2019.
Revenue from travel services was 14.2 trillion VND (610 million USD), a year-on-year drop of 56 percent.
Nguyen Huu Y Yen, general director of Saigontourist, said the company was focusing on domestic tourism now.
Vietnam has been welcoming foreign investors and experts who have been allowed to enter the country, so Yen expects the criteria for safe tourism and destinations will be issued in one or two months to welcome tourists.
Ngo Minh Duc, Chairman of Hospitality Group (HG) Holdings, and member of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), said the Government has asked the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism to build criteria on safe tourism destinations.
Duc added that foreign tourists had made great contributions to the sector, but in the next 12 months, travel firms should promote local tourism to compensate for the losses.
To ensure safety for everyone, Vietnam will open for international visitors only after a vaccine against COVID-19 appears. 
Tours to adjust to new customer needs
Meanwhile, tourism experts have also said travel firms need to take travellers’ new concerns into account to design tourism products after the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 has changed tourists’ behaviours and preferences, Nguyen Thu Hanh, Chairwoman of the Scientific Union for Sustainable Tourism Development, has recently told the Dau Tu (Investment) newspaper.
After the health crisis ends, customers will pay attention to hygiene and safety and seek destinations closer to home. Travel firms need to offer tours adjusted to tourists' new expectations and needs, she said.
Tours should focus on helping local residents discover nearby landscapes in popular tourist destinations such as HCM City and Hanoi.
Nguyen Cong Hoan, General Director of Flamingo Redtour, said his company was offering a staycation product to serve local residents in Hanoi. The company has cooperated with five-star hotels in the city to offer domestic tourists tours to the Old Quarter, the Opera House, Government Guesthouse and West Lake. 
Phung Xuan Khanh, Director of Tien Phong Travel, said his company was renewing its tours to discover the beauty of Hanoi City and its lifestyles and local cuisine, as well as shopping.
Nguyen Van Tai, general director of VietSense Travel, said his company has designed new tour packages for English-speaking markets, including Hanoi-Ha Long-Sa Pa and Mekong Delta tour packages for three to five days.
Previously, tour packages were designed with itineraries of 7-15 days to discover various destinations from the north to the south. 
Nearby tourist attractions are now being offered to reduce travel time and cut costs as part of an effort to fulfill customer demand for short-haul travel, he said./.