The Vietnamese government closed its borders and canceled all international flights since March 25 except for special cases like repatriation and the entry of foreign experts and highly-skilled workers under stringent conditions.
September alone saw the number of foreign arrivals fall to its lowest in recent years, with a year-on-year drop of 99 percent to 13,800, according to the General Statistics Office. These mainly comprised foreign experts and highly-skilled workers as well as students from Cambodia and Laos returning to Vietnam to continue their studies.
The number of visitors from China, traditionally Vietnam’s largest tourism market, in the first nine months dropped 76.4 percent year-on-year to 937,800, followed by South Korea (73.6 percent), and Japan (71.5 percent).
Last year, Vietnam welcomed 18 million foreign tourists, up 16.2 percent year-on-year. China was Vietnam’s biggest feeder tourism market with nearly 4.8 million arrivals, followed by South Korea (3.4 million).
A nine-month data breakdown shows Vietnam received 2.77 million Asians, down 72.7 percent from a year ago and accounting for over 70 percent of total foreign arrivals.
Tourism revenues fell 56.3 percent in the January-September period to VND14.2 trillion ($613 million) given Covid-19 impacts. Vietnam has grappled with two waves of Covid-19. The first hit in late January and the second in late July after more than three months without community transmission.
The most severe revenue drops in the first nine months were seen in Khanh Hoa Province, home to Nha Trang beach town, at 78.7 percent, followed by Ho Chi Minh City (73.7 percent), Quang Nam, home to ancient town Hoi An, (70.6 percent), Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, home to Vung Tau beach town (68.5 percent), and tourism hotspot Da Nang (68.1 percent).
Da Nang and Quang Nam in central Vietnam were the country’s biggest Covid-19 hotspots during the second wave.
Resumption of international flights
The government recently green-lighted the resumption of commercial flights to seven Asian destinations, including mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.
A total 104 passengers from South Korea’s Seoul landed at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport last Friday on a Vietnam Airlines flight, marking the first routine inbound commercial flight in six months.
Low-cost carrier Vietjet Air is set to resume its commercial flight from Seoul to HCMC every Wednesday from October 7 and one weekly flight on the HCMC-Seoul route from September 30.
Bamboo Airways planned to resume flights from Hanoi to Seoul on October 7 with one weekly round trip. The airline will begin to fly on the HCMC-Tokyo sector from November and the Hanoi-Tokyo sector in December.
Though the government allowed the resumption of some international commercial flights, foreign tourists have yet to be allowed back into the country. The only foreigners currently allowed entry are those carrying diplomatic or official passports, experts, managers, high-skilled workers, and investors, their family members, international students, and family members of Vietnamese citizens.
Vietnam’s Covid-19 tally has risen to 1,094 with 49 active cases and 35 deaths.