coronavirus under control, Vietnam Travel and New Zealand see different trends

Laura Douglas’ tourism start-up, a farm surrounded by snow-tipped mountains in southern New Zealand, was attracting hundreds of mostly foreign visitors a month until the coronavirus pandemic brought it to a sudden halt in March.

"It’s like I’ve been mourning the loss of my business," Douglas, 33, said in a phone interview with Reuters, adding she had to take on a second job as a vet to pay the bills during a strict lockdown that included sealing the country’s borders.

The rebound for New Zealanders who are reliant on tourism is expected to be slow, in marked contrast to how the tourism sector is faring in Vietnam, another nation that was hailed as a success story in Asia for containing the coronavirus.

Both countries have emerged from lockdown virtually virus-free, lifting all restrictions except those on international travel. While New Zealand’s tourism sector is struggling pending arrivals from abroad, Vietnam’s has rebounded, according to travel data and industry members.

This is thanks to how much domestic tourism has filled the gap, reflecting in part how badly the coronavirus hit the two economies. While New Zealand’s economy is expected to contract by as much as 20 percent in the first half of the year, according to the central bank, Vietnam has kept its yearly growth target above 5 percent.

July is normally peak travel season in New Zealand but scheduled flights are down 40 percent compared to the same month last year and even many of those are being canceled, according to figures from travel analytics firm Cirium.

Weekly demand for Airbnb and Vrbo properties through July are down 55 percent from last year and a recovery is unlikely until later this year, according to forward-looking bookings from AirDNA.

Across the ocean in Vietnam, the story is very different. In July, more than 26,000 flights are expected to transport 5 million people, increases of 16 percent and 24 percent from last year.

Nguyen Thi Thuy Anh, owner of a travel agency called Minh Viet Booking, says he is handling a surge in bookings as businesses slash prices to attract local travelers.

"Many people who couldn’t afford five-star services before are taking advantage of the programs to experience the services," he said, referring to central and provincial government efforts to boost mass domestic tourism.

In a country with poor rail and road infrastructure, air travel is already a popular mode of transport, and even more so now, with airlines adding routes and offering tickets for as low as VND69,000 ($3).

Reuters analysis of flight data from FlightRadar24 shows that Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, along with Phu Quoc Island and Cam Ranh Bay - both tourist hotspots - were top destinations through mid-June after lockdowns were lifted in late April.

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