06:00 | 14/07/2020 Culture & Tourism
(VEN) - Vietnam and Thailand have become favored destinations for citizens of both countries, reflecting robust and fruitful tourism cooperation in recent years.
|Brilliant Wat Arun along with Chao Phraya River in Thailand’s Bangkok|
Now, as both countries work towards a post-pandemic revival, tourist numbers will take a backseat to safety and trust, says Ratiwan Boonprakhong, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Ho Chi Minh (HCM) Office.
Statistics compiled by the TAT’s HCM Office show that in 2019, 1.077 million Vietnamese tourists visited Thailand, up 2.21 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, more than 500,000 Thai tourists visited Vietnam, ranking sixth among Asian countries and eighth among the top 10 feeder markets for Vietnamese tourism.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has cast a shadow over international tourism with flight restrictions and closed borders. While the situation remains fraught and complicated, the two countries are making efforts to tighten collaboration and chart a fresh course for the tourism sector to move ahead in the “new normal period.”
Ratiwan Boonprakhong said her organization has initiated the International Tourist Bridge project that proposes an assessment of tourism exchanges between Thailand and Vietnam by considering the readiness of public health management and disease control in either country.
“Last May, I had a meeting with leaders of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. I informed them that Thailand has controlled Covid-19 well and the TAT has cooperated with the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand to create Safety & Health Administration (SHA) for Thai entrepreneurs to set and certify standards for taking care of tourists.”
“I think both Thailand and Vietnam have enough potential to work together on this project, which will help revitalize the tourism market of both countries and could be considered as a model for tourism corridors at the ASEAN level.”
“If this project succeeds it will be a good model for ASEAN countries including Vietnam to benefit from an increasing proportion of Thai tourists in the future.”
Ratiwan Boonprakhong also said that both governments should discuss this project as well as the involvement of airlines and related agencies to set common security standards and identify safe tourist destinations.
She said that during this challenging time, tourists are likely to prioritize safety and avoid traveling. “Hence, the number of Vietnamese tourists going to Thailand in 2020 will fall by more than 80 percent and the goal of a 10 percent growth over 2019 cannot be achieved,” she said.
The new normal means that even “if the situation returns to normal and tourists return to Thailand in the fourth quarter of this year, the number of tourists will no longer be a priority target for TAT; instead it will be the health, safety and trust when traveling to Thailand that will be paramount for us.”
The TAT considers that the promotion of tourism exchanges between the two countries has had concrete impacts, suggesting that this activity should be continued during normal times as well as times of crisis like the one triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.
The TAT’s research shows that Thai destinations favored by individual Vietnamese tourists are Bangkok, Pattaya (Chon Buri) and Udon Thani; while revisiting groups tend to prefer Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi.
Ratiwan Boonprakhong said visitors to Bangkok can use the skytrain to get convenient access to many shopping areas including department stores and the famous flea market (Chatuchak), enjoying street food and fully utilizing many entertainment options.
In the past two to three years, Vietnam’s image has also received a significant boost on Thai social media for its natural beauty and atmosphere, she said. Vietnam has emerged as a popular destination particularly among the Thai youth, with the most popular destinations being Ha Long Bay, Mui Ne, Da Nang, Sa Pa, Hoi An, Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh City.
Her office is pleased to promote Vietnam’s tourism destinations on the media to make them well known among Thai tourists, Ratiwan said. “We also organize Fam Trip for the media of both countries as an ASEAN tourism partnership activity.”
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, TAT has to follow procedures and guidelines of the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand on changing the new normal state, including tourism markets, tourism products, business forms, immigration procedures, providing necessary information for visitors through technology applications and advertising channels, as well as exchanging information with each tourism market to provide guidance on safe and economical ways to travel, thereby creating confidence for tourists when traveling, Ratiwan Boonprakhong said.