In 2020, the four factors that affected the tourism sector include vaccine, the government’s tourism policies, economy, and environment.
Covid-19 extended the impact of these effects on the Vietnamese tourism industry and make an important contribution to forming Vietnamese tourism trends in 2021. Outbox Consulting's recent report on Vietnam Travel Trends 2021 shows that under the influence of these four factors, this year’s trends will be summarized into four groups including travel trends, planning and booking trends, technology trends, and destination trends.
Before Covid-19, exploring a crowded city, strolling through bustling markets, enjoying dinner at a bistro brimming with locals, or touring major attractions were Vietnamese tourists’ favorite activities. However, restrictions on destination choices, travel mobility, and interpersonal interactions have changed the way people travel. Socially distant travel is expected to set the trend for 2021.
Travelers can plan socially distanced vacations in a sparsely populated area nearby and be safe from coronavirus. With this paradigm shift, tour operators need more suitable plans and products that align with the travel demands of people who prefer socially distant travel.
Small group travel is a choice for people who want to travel as a group. While a regular trip in 2019 could accommodate 20 – 30 visitors, in 2021, the size will shrink down to control the spread of infectious diseases. As countries impose stricter entry restrictions on overcrowded places, travel with safety at the top of the mind receives more attention.
As this trend becomes more prevalent, tour operators need to work out their creativity by designing itineraries. There are several contents that tour operators can consider, including focusing on more remote and isolated areas, or niches such as biking tours or hiking tours where travelers are less likely to come into contact with others. Tours that prioritize safety and hygiene are the new tool to earn customer attention and increase business profitability.
The Covid-19 crisis presents an opportunity for industry players to rethink tourism operations and also for travelers to reconsider their travel choices. This forms a new type of traveler – conscious travelers. They want to see the world in a different way and desire unique experiences and memories, but not at the cost of the planet and local communities. Safety is the most important priority for this type of group at the moment.
Wellness travel is not a new trend in the tourism industry. However, during the pandemic, fatigue and stress have become almost familiar to everyone. So finding a wellness retreat after the pandemic will be a trend in 2021.
In 2019, Vietnam is considered an emerging destination for the wellness travel trend in the Asia Pacific region. This combined with the increase in visitor demand for wellness travel trends this year will be a good opportunity for Vietnam's wellness tourism market, especially as Vietnam is emerging as a safe destination for disease control.
Planning and booking trends
Shorter timeframes pre-Covid, Vietnamese travelers often planned their trip and booked services long before their departure to save money, especially when it comes to overseas tours. However, in times of uncertainty, shorter booking timeframes will help mitigate the risk of travel policy changes and mobility restrictions.
A report of Skyscanner in 2020 also stressed that travelers waited until the last minute to book accommodation, as they perceived it would be harder to cancel and get a refund for hotel bookings than flight tickets.
In order to adapt to the “shorter timeframes” trend, tourism enterprises have changed booking terms and conditions towards flexibility. With rapidly changing travel policies and regulations, allowing travelers to change hotel reservations or flight tickets at no extra charge seems the only way to give travelers a nudge to book confidently.
People travel with more responsible choices. Travelers start to make more conscientious decisions to fulfill their responsibilities towards the environment, destinations, and local communities.
In times of disruption and uncertainty, travelers are in dire need of an invaluable source of information to keep informed of the latest coronavirus news. Covid-19 underlines the critical role of travel agents, they not only sell tours and events like before but also have fountains of knowledge and information. Travel agents respond to all requirements since they offer travel advice, implement the best flight plans, provide the latest news on health and safety standards, and help tourists cancel and get a refund for flight tickets and hotel bookings.
Therefore, destinations, airlines, hotels, and car rental companies should collaborate closely with travel agents to ensure they all have the details they need to increase the consumer base and handle any potential disturbances.
Technology trends in tourism
The covid-19 pandemic has sped up digital transformation more than ever before. Online tours are seeing a surge in popularity as they take advantage of virtual reality technology.
Airbnb took a step ahead of the competition by launching online experiences – a great way to connect people who want to escape reality with hosts. However, virtual experiences require strong investment in the technology platform, which only a few service providers can handle, said Parin Mehta, Regional Director, Airbnb Experiences APAC.
In the future, virtual experiences can become a gold standard for each business, enabling visitors to connect with their tour guides and experience services prior to booking. This type of experience will help businesses hook customers and run direct marketing effectively.
Also, in 2021, technology will be conducive for boosting traveler confidence. In a recent survey conducted by Censuswide, more than four out of five travelers said the technology would increase their confidence to travel in the next 12 months. A mobile app that provides warnings and updates on local outbreaks or the government’s latest guidelines would be the solution of the year.
Besides, touchless payments would take off the heavy lifting, helping travelers confidently to be on the move in the next 12 months. In 2021, safety will be of paramount importance, and simple technology solutions will urge travelers on exploring the world with more confidence.
Post-Covid, interest in traveling to off-the-beaten-track destinations and second cities continues to grow as prioritizing safety and avoiding crowds will be the leading factors in travelers’ decisions. Given the tendency to hop in new landscapes and keep tourist hotspots at arm’s length, it is projected that Vietnam’s tourism map will witness the emergence of brand new destinations which are small-scale and well-fitted with specific travel needs.
Until the pandemic can be suppressed and controlled, the domestic tourism market is still at the heart of development in 2021. A survey conducted by Outbox Consulting in 2020 reveals that islands, beach cities, and famous tourist cities are top destinations and expected to be on top of Vietnamese travelers' minds in 2021.
Vietnamese tourists often spend 2 – 3 days enjoying domestic tours when they have a long weekend or short holidays. Therefore, their preferred destinations are often in the proximity of their cities and have good traffic. Regarding beach cities, Vung Tau and Nha Trang are among popular destinations that domestic travelers can visit at their convenience. Ha Long, Sapa, Phu Quoc, or Da Lat also enjoy a high number of tourist arrivals.
Vietnam also sets out its roadmap for borders opening and tourism rebuilding based on the effectiveness of other countries’ interventions against Covid-19. Apart from vaccines, the speed of tourism recovery depends partly on the factors that drive destinations to reopen.
Mastercard and CrescentRating's report suggests a plausible growth recovery path for ASEAN. In the first quarter of this year, the recovery phase is gradual due to sporadic collaboration among ASEAN countries, and in quarter III, 2021, normalization begins with news of a potential vaccine being made available. International travel begins to open to tourists in the first quarter of next year.