Tourists in groups of hundreds have returned to Danang, Phu Quoc Island, and other destinations. Many resorts are booked solid even though it’s not yet the peak period, according to tourism experts.
Chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) Nguyen Trung Khanh attributed the strong sentiment of tourism to fully lifting of restrictions following Vietnam's reopening of borders on March 15.
But the recent facts and figures even showed a bright future for domestic tourism. According to statistics by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, domestic visits in February reached 9.6 million, a 380% increase compared to the same period in 2021, including about six million overnight stays.
Expecting to book a room in Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang for a weekend in March, but Ly Nguyen from Hanoi could not find a satisfactory place in the center. The resorts in Duong Dong Town with prices from VND1,000,000 (US$44) per night were all fully booked on the weekends. In particular, representatives of Sunset Beach, as well as Ocean Bay Phu Quoc, confirmed that all of their rooms had been reserved for the weekends until the end of March.
Meanwhile, in the more advanced accommodation segment - resorts with large villas that can accommodate groups of friends or families, the booking situation has also seen good progress. A representative of The New World Phu Quoc Resort said that their villas are almost full on weekends and she invited people to stay on weekdays to “enjoy the same service at a cheaper price”, about VND6,000,000-VND8,000,000 ($260-$350) for a villa that can accommodate six to 10 guests.
Vice Chairman of Kien Giang Tourism Association (KITA) Nguyen Vu Khac Huy referred to the rapidly growing number of tourists in Phu Quoc as “roaring”. In the first two months of 2022, Kien Giang welcomed over a million visitors, of them the island city of Phu Quoc received 740,000.
Huy remarked that as tourism has just been reactivated, international visitors are not expected to arrive right away, so the sector is still relying on the domestic market. Also, this is the time to prepare personnel and plans to welcome foreign guests back at the end of the year.
Not only Phu Quoc, but other famous destinations in the southern region have also recorded a sharp increase in the number of visitors, even though this is not the peak tourist season. Over 90% of rooms in Vung Tau and Dalat have been booked for weekends in March, while the figure in Nha Trang is nearly 80%. Up north, many resorts near Hanoi, such as Mai Chau Hideaway, Avana Retreat, and Mai Chau Ecolodge (all in Hoa Binh Province), are also 90-100% booked for the same periods.
“Vietnam has a variety of tourism products, as localities have their own cultural and resource advantages. If nearly 100 million people take turns to go on tours, they will create a lot of value for the industry,” Huy said.
Among the models, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) tourism is the most popular selected after a year of virtual freeze. In reality, group travel combined with conferences and team building has “boomed”, commented Hoang Thuy Linh, Deputy Director of Marketing and Communications of SaigonTourist. In the first three months of 2022, the tour operator has served 150 groups with 20,000 guests, including 13,000 in March alone. In the second quarter, the company will welcome a group of 2,200 visitors to Long Hai (Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province).
“The market has really prospered with both independent and group travelers. On the national holidays and April 30 and May 1, we expect to serve 8,000 guests”, Linh said. They have prepared 60 products for the holidays as well as the Commemoration Day of the Hung Kings in early April.
Similarly, since reopening in November 2021, New World Phu Quoc Resort has continuously welcomed large groups of guests and increased the room occupancy on weekends to 100%, while its average room occupancy reached 70%.
“We have welcomed large groups of up to 500 guests such as senior leaders of Sun Group who came to attend year-end seminars and parties, conferences of real estate distributors as well as banks' team building. Right now, in April 2022, the occupancy rate of New World Phu Quoc Resort is 100%, of which 70% are MICE guests,” Riccardo Barella, the resort's Director of Sale and Marketing told The Hanoi Times.
Meanwhile, hotels in Hanoi are actively preparing for the race to attract MICE guests. Boasting to have an ideal location, before the pandemic, Melia Hanoi Hotel was considered one of the famous MICE service providers in Hanoi.
“We are always ready for major conferences or large events. Even with social distancing requirements, our large and secluded ballrooms can still accommodate large MICE groups,” the hotel’s Manager Marc Selinger shared with The Hanoi Times.
“We welcomed the Presidential delegation of Sierra Leone and the US-ASEAN Business Council delegation who hold their day-after-day meetings and reception parties, with the number of guests reaching hundreds, not to mention regularly smaller groups,” he added.
Sheraton Hanoi Hotel has also been holding MICE activity right after receiving the directives from the local government. “Despite the demand still running fairly low, we did have the opportunity to host group ranging from education, insurance to banking segment,” the hotel’s General Manager Tiffany Hwang said.
In mid-March, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, in coordination with the People's Committee of Quang Ninh Province, organized a conference themed “Launching reopening to tourism: Vietnam - Full Experience”, accompanied by a lot of promotional activities.
After that, Quang Nam will host the 2022 National Tourism Year, with the theme of “Quang Nam - A green destination”. In Danang, another tourism fair was also held in a week in late March, involving 150 domestic businesses and 60 international partners.
Participating in the race to promote inbound tourism, Riccardo from New World Phu Quoc Resort talked with The Hanoi Times that they are developing product combos for MICE guests.
“Our MICE services are not only limited within the resort’s space but include richer experiences. MICE client can hold parties, concerts or seminars at Sun Signature Gallery or team buildings at the nearby Hon Thom Island,” he stated.
Likewise, in Hanoi, after a year of absence, the Vietnam International Travel Mart (VITM) returns, taking place from March 31 to April 3, with the participation of over 600 enterprises who will offer tens of thousands of tour programs to stimulate demand, including discounted air tickets.
Together with Meliá hotels globally, Meliá Hanoi will run the promotion program “Meeting means more”. MICE guests who confirmed booking before June 30, 2022, will be entitled to a free refund and cancellation 60 days before the conference, the entire cost of the conference will be converted to bonus points to the Melia Rewards account (maximum 200,000 points).
At a recent tourism forum, VNAT’s Chairman Nguyen Trung Khanh commented: “In light of the current pandemic situation, the number of domestic tourists is still soaring, which affirms the effective implementation of safe tourism activities so far as well as the readiness for tourism activities in the current reopening period”.
In 2022, Vietnam’s tourism aims to welcome 60 million domestic and five million international visitors.