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Travel agencies discuss overcoming pandemic's consequences

Nearly 500 representatives from the Vietnam Tourism Association, the Vietnam Society of Travel Agents, the culture and tourism sector, and involved agencies joined the National Travel Agents Forum 2021 held in the northern city of Hai Phong on January 12.

The event aimed to discuss solutions to revive travel activities and help tourism return to its position as a national key economic sector.

The forum included two sessions, namely 'Vietnam Travel Agents – Solution for 2021' and 'Vietnam Travel Agents aim for future'.

Addressing the event, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung suggested tourism enterprises restructure.

“Tourism enterprises should define which market they aim for when they restructure themselves,” he said.  

He also suggested involved agencies pay more attention to training human resources.

“With the outstanding development between 2016 and 2019, Vietnamese tourism has confirmed its role in the national economy,” said Vu The Binh, chairman of the association at the event.

“It has gradually become a key economic sector of the country. It has also been considered as a phenomenon of the world’s tourism with rapid growth and dozens of honourable prizes.

“Yet the pandemic has pushed the national tourism to dozens of years backward. Its consequences have not been fully reported.

"In 2020, the number of international tourists reduced nearly 80 percent, that of domestic visitors reduced 50 percent, the number of outbound guests reduced 90 percent and total income reduced nearly 60 percent against 2019."

Binh said tourism enterprises and travel agencies have used various solutions to revive the sector.

At the end of February 2020, the Vietnam Tourism Association launched a domestic tourism stimulus programme, when hundreds of tourism enterprises brought visitors to safe destinations

"COVID-19 has not only destroyed the economy but also hastened changes in tourism management and business.

"The advantages of electronic commerce, which had not been fully applied in life, have become a crucial factor in various sectors.

"As a sensitive sector, tourism has rapidly implemented digital transformation, applied modern technology in business. Yet we should further discuss how to apply digital transformation in tourism activities,” he added.

Tourism stimulation – not deep sale

Phung Quang Thang, director of Hanoitourist, said sustainable tourism will be key going forward and a small group of tourists will take an important role.

“Travel agencies should focus on quality rather than quantity, road travel will be expanded, people will seek more for tourism consultants and tend to travel nearer to home than before,” he said.

He suggested travel agents pay more attention to developing sustainable tourism, enhancing the role of travel agents in community tourism, pushing digital transformation and caring more about markets, tourism products and promotions.

Nguyen Cong Hoan, general director of Flamingo Redtours, said the sector cannot promote tourism only based on cutting prices.

Hoan said tourism stimulation needed to be a long time and large-scale effort.

“We should diversify tourism products, add more values to stimulate the demand besides cutting prices,” he said. “We should connect with one another closely.”

Lai Minh Duy, general director of TST Company, agreed. “I don’t think sales and reducing the quality of products is a good idea,” he said. “Instead, we should add extra services that we could not offer before COVID-19 appeared to attract visitors."

Participants also discussed international travel activities.

Vo Anh Tai, deputy general director of Saigon Tourist, said together with domestic tourism, international tourism activities will be ready to rise up quickly.

“We should take advantage of all opportunities to turn the risk into an opportunity to revive effectively as quickly as possible,” he said.

He said safety from the pandemic is the distinct advantage for the Vietnamese tourism sector now and after the pandemic.

“The whole sector should implement double targets: give priority to preventing and fighting against the pandemic till all the travel limits to Vietnamese people to other countries and foreign people to Vietnam are removed. Then we can revive the whole sector.”

Tai said the sector should research, watch and forecast international markets as the pandemic is still complicated.

Tai suggested concerned agencies reduce financial competition pressure.

He said co-operation among nations in the region and world in the fields of tourism, foreign affairs and traffic should be enhanced.

The event also feature cooperation agreements signing ceremonies between members of the Northern Tourism Alliance; between MICE Club and Flamingo Holding Group; between the Vietnam Tourism Association and Cat Hai District authorities; and between tourism associations of HCM City, Da Nang and Hai Phong.