UPDATE (March 14, 2020): As the virus has become a global pandemic, things are changing rapidly in Vietnam and around the world. At this point in time getting into the country as a tourist is looking very unlikely and many foreigners are being quarantined and sent out of the country so beware!
“I don’t think you should go to Vietnam”, “you’re still going to Vietnam? I wouldn’t if I were you” are just a few of many things friends and family told me before I stepped foot in the country. By then I was well aware of the Coronavirus but I wasn’t about to miss my trip! What I never considered was how the presence of the Coronavirus in Vietnam would affect tourism throughout the country.
My original worries
I’m not going to lie, with the country going to extreme measures such as closing schools for months, doing random temperature checks and most locals wearing face masks, I was a tad concerned.
After looking at the number of deaths and of those infected by country, I immediately calmed down. Sixteen deaths in a country with 94 million people and countries such as Australia had similar numbers. With the percentage being so low and first world countries experiencing it as well, I soon realized there’s no point in stressing out about it.
Tourism in 2019
Tourism in Vietnam was at an all time high last year with 18 million people exploring all that the beautiful country has to offer. Of the 18 million tourists, 5.8 million were Chinese. This number was much greater than previous years so Vietnam was expecting 2020 to aid in tourism growth.
What will happen this year?
With flights coming in and out of China from Vietnam being cancelled, the country could possibly be losing nearly a third of their tourists this year. Of course this all depends on how quickly the virus is contained.
The department of tourism estimates the loss will be anywhere from 3-4 billion dollars.
My experience as a tourist
While the Coronavirus in Vietnam is no joke, I think the media has scared people more than ever. I’m currently in Vietnam (February – high season) and have noticed a few things …
- Hostels aren’t full: Since arriving in Hanoi about a week ago, I’ve stayed at a few hostels. I’ve started to notice that none of them are full. My 18 bed dorm rooms have had a handful of people (which I’m most definitely not complaining about).
- The streets are dead: I’m in Phong Nha at the moment and while it’s nowhere near as busy as Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi would be, I can’t help but notice how dead it is everywhere. The clubs/bars, restaurants and streets have a handful of people wandering around. It’s not exactly been the atmosphere I was anticipating.
- Local businesses are suffering: Going hand in hand with my previous point, because there are less tourists than usual, many local businesses appear to be suffering. After spending the day biking around Phong Nha with my new friend Lucy, I noticed that we were the only tourists to be seen. We made our way to the Bong Lai Swing. There you can get a bite to eat, relax on hammocks and take in the view. We were the only two people there for over 2 hours. It was unbelievable to us that we had the whole place to ourselves!
If you were planning on going to Vietnam, please don’t let it’s close proximity to China stop you! The country needs tourists more now than ever and you’ll have the experience of a lifetime.
Since arriving in Vietnam I’ve seemed to catch myself so happy by the lack of tourists. It’s nice being in a place that doesn’t feel so touristy, although I can’t help but feel sympathy for the locals. Not only are they losing out on the tourism they usually get due to the Coronavirus in Vietnam but I also wonder how long the break for school children will go on for.
What do you think about the Coronavirus? Would you travel through Vietnam right now? Let me know in the comments and connect with me on Instagram!