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Tourism companies cope with COVID-19
Date: 05/05/2020

COVID-19 pandemic is seriously affecting many aspects of socio-economic life, especially tourism. Restrictions on organizing public events, festivals, public cultural services at all levels almost "freeze" the tourism industry. Facing these challenges, tourist agencies in Can Tho city organized a meeting to discuss some solutions to overcome these difficulties.
Visitors to Can Tho in March decreased dramatically. In the photo: Fewer tourists visit Binh Thuy ancient house during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The "freezing" period

According to the figures from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the number of international visitors to Vietnam in March 2020 was around 449,923 arrivals, a decrease of 68.1% over the same period in 2019. In the first 3 months of 2020, there were only nearly 3.7 million international visitors, down 18.1% over the same period last year. The number of visitors to Can Tho decreased by 47.6% in the first 3 months of 2020, of which international tourist arrivals declined by 31.8%. Local travel activities also dropped slightly from 49% (international) to 52% (domestic) compared to the same period in 2019. Ms. Le Dinh Minh Thy, Director of Vietravel Can Tho, said: “After more than 2 months, the tourism industry, as well as Vietravel, is severely affected by COVID-19 pandemic as there was a 70% drop in the revenue. However, to protect the public health and prevent the spread of the disease, Vietravel has officially stopped all tours from the beginning of March to the end of April 2020 even though many tourists had booked tours before this time. So, it looks like we will lose 100% of revenue in these 2 months”.

During this "freezing" period, tourist agencies and companies in the city must have flexible solutions. Mr. Dang Huynh Anh Tuan, Member of the BOD of TTC Hospitality, Director of Can Tho TTC Hotel, said: “Since the start of COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam, TTC Hotel - Can Tho as well as other units of TTC Hospitality have carried out COVID-19 preventive measures for tourists and staff. Besides, we have a flexible business policy to attract and motivate guests to continue using the service at the hotel (early check-in, late check-out, free laundry, change / cancel service without charging, free room upgrade...). Moreover, regarding the F&B of TTC Hotel - Can Tho, we build appropriate packages to meet practical requirements from time to time, such as incentive programs for customers eating at the barbecue restaurant; Claypot rice program; 50% discount on F&B services for guests staying at TTC Hotel - Can Tho to restrain from going out ... All policies ensure absolute safety for travelers. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, we were forced to have policies to reduce costs, tighten the budget, suspend large-cost investments, adjust staff according to the hotel's operation until the market recovers”. Meanwhile, Mr. Nguyen Vu, Deputy Director of Viet Mark Media Advertising Co., Ltd., the managing unit of Ong De Ecotourism Village and Dat Phuong Nam Tourist Area, says: “We consider this difficult period a test and take some time to modify the product. We will invest in renewing images, building new services, improving the quality of products. We also have the policy to support employees being laid-off and plan on re-recruiting them when we re-open.”

In terms of tourism, Mr. Nguyen Ngoc An, Deputy General Director of Fiditour Travel Company, says: “tourism firms in Vietnam, depending on scales and specific business markets, will have their own solutions to overcome difficulties.” With more than 30 years of experience in the tourism business, operating in all three markets of domestic tourism, foreign tourism (outbound) and international visitors (inbound), Fiditour Travel as well as other large companies quickly develop many plans and choose the right solutions for their businesses, to minimize the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. For Fiditour, during this period, work-from-home is their priority, accounting for 80% of total working hours. In addition to dealing with the impact of the pandemic, Fiditour still carries out training programs, improve the quality management process, and continue to apply new technology in the workplace. Furthermore, product improvement and product research, especially domestic tours and Free & Easy tours are implemented to make sure the company is ready to be back when Vietnam announces the end of the pandemic. Fiditour also focuses on investing in the high-class product like Vietluxtour, promising to launch top-end products in the second quarter of 2020.

Vietravel, meanwhile, proposed three stages of response to the COVID-19 crisis. Ms. Le Dinh Minh Thy, Director of Vietravel Can Tho, says: “Stage 1 (hibernation), starting from now until June 2020, sets the criteria to ensure the least energy consumption. Particularly, we minimize expenses, but still ensure the resources and prepare for stage 2. For business activities, Vietravel temporarily closes a number of offices, remains the main regional branches, shortens the working time, and halts tourism activities. The company also sees this as a "golden opportunity" to focus on converting to digitalization and restructuring. Moreover, the company continues to carry out community activities, notably the Joining hands against the COVID-19 campaign. In stage 2, from July to September, it will be the re-opening of the company as well as consolidating the market, working with partners to promote products with the goal of creating the highest symbiotic value for customers. Stage 3 is acceleration, starting from October to December. Tourism is expected to be revived and the company will offer great products at the best price.”

Local support is necessary

During this "freezing" period, especially after the implementation of the Prime Minister's Directive No. 16 / CT-TTg on the implementation of urgent measures to prevent and control COVID-19 pandemic, Tourism companies need some support from local authorities. Mr. Dang Huynh Anh Tuan, a member of the BOD of TTC Hospitality, director of TTC Hotel in Can Tho, says: “After the pandemic is under control, the local authorities consider to allow our company to receive guests (tourist companies that can establish solutions to prevent and control the spread of the disease). The local authorities also have policies to help enterprises recover from the pandemic, such as tax reduction, insurance payment reduction, and extension, a reduction of electricity and water rates to support businesses. Furthermore, Relevant departments and agencies will create conditions for units to participate in tourism stimulus programs after the pandemic is controlled. Having the same point of view, Mr. Nguyen Ngoc An, Deputy General Director of Fiditour Company, says: “It is an important encouragement when agencies and departments are currently supporting companies in the tourism industry. Supporting activities such as corporate income tax rebate, interest rates reduction, rent exemption, rent concession ... are highly appreciated. We also recommend that travel management agencies should have plans to promote and stimulate tourism as soon as the pandemic is under control to “warm-up” the domestic and inbound markets. Besides, the travel, aviation, and hospitality industry should closely coordinate to offer many products with "preferred" prices, promoting the tourism market right after the epidemic is under control”.

Ms. Le Dinh Minh Thy, Director of Vietravel Can Tho, said that the company proposes policies for tax reduction and extension, land rent concession a reduction of electricity and water rates. We also recommend that local authorities consider lowering interest rates to 4-4.2%. Meanwhile, Mr. Nguyen Vu, Deputy Director of Dau An Viet Media Advertising Co., Ltd, also wants the local government to stabilize the cost of electricity, water, basic necessities, and facilitate corporate income tax rebate during this difficult time.

Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Can Tho city has recorded the opinions of tourist companies and sent recommendations to the People's Committee of Can Tho City, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism to step by step propound appropriate solutions to support enterprises to overcome their obstacles.

Source: Can Tho Newspaper - Translated by Hoang Dat

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