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BackStories » Saigon » Amid Tourism Slump, Saigon's Hotels Provide Free Stays, Meals to Frontline Workers

Amid Saigon’s most devastating outbreak of COVID-19, the city’s various economic sectors have pivoted to supporting frontline workers in their enduring efforts against the epidemic.

In a report by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism released on July 18, a number of hospitality facilities in the city have been contributing to local pandemic-fighting activities during this period of minimal tourism, according to Nguoi Lao Dong.

The department shared that 20 hotels in HCMC have been hosting frontline medical workers and providing meals for free, amounting to up to 50,000 room nights. Travel agency Saigontourist Group, for example, has been providing 6,150 room nights and three meals a day for medical staff of Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital, University Medical Center HCMC, and the Can Gio COVID-19 Field Hospital, with plans to expand the coverage to up to 3,000 healthcare employees in the future.

Six hotels are committed to providing free accommodation and meals for 650 doctors of hospitals designated for COVID-19 treatment for at least a month. Eleven others, with almost 3,500 room nights, have been used as free quarantine facilities for medical professionals treating and testing COVID-19 cases.

According to the municipal tourism department, enterprises in the tourism industry with spare vehicles have volunteered their inventory to help transport medical staff, vaccine doses, and F0 and F1 cases between quarantine facilities and hospitals. These include Vietravel, Saco and Fiditour, among others.

These contributions come in the context of a prolonged slump for the local tourism sector. Since March last year, international tourism has dwindled from scarce to zero. As Thanh Nien reports, in the first five months of 2021, Saigon welcomed zero international tourism arrivals.

Domestic tourism in Saigon managed to survive for most of 2020 in between short, well-contained outbreaks. This stretch of moderate business continued well into early 2021 but has since nosedived after Saigon became the epicenter of Vietnam’s catastrophic wave of COVID-19 starting from early May. In the first five months of 2021, Saigon received over 7 million domestic tourists, a 47% drop compared to the same period in 2019, but an 11.4% rise compared to 2020.

Data from Thu Duc City and other districts show that only 50% of tourism businesses are still operating. Up to 90% of small- and medium-sized tourism firms, and those catering to the inbound market, have suspended their business. Human resource-wise, only 10% of tour guides for foreign travelers are still working; the figure is 40–50% for domestic guides for company-affiliated positions. Almost all freelance guides have lost their job and have had to resort to other means to make a living.

[Photo via Nguoi Lao Dong]