Tourism CEOs switch jobs to survive Covid-19 storm
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Tran Van Long (C) supervises operation at his mask production factory in Long An Province. Photo courtesy of Tran Van Long.
As the Covid-19 crisis freezes the travel industry, many tourism executives have switched to other businesses to save their companies from bankruptcy.
It is 7 p.m. and Tran Van Long, director of Ho Chi Minh City-based Viet Media Travel Corporation, is still present to supervise his mask production factory in nearby Long An Province, ensuring progress of export shipments.
He said this time, hundreds of employees had to work overtime, with three factories operating almost 24/7 to reach a capacity of 10 million masks per day.
"During the peak period, I have to face stress and pressure. Some days, I stayed at the factory until midnight. But all of this confirms my initial success in switching to a new venture and feed my passion for tourism," Long said.
After the Lunar New Year holiday in 2020, the first Covid-19 wave broke in Vietnam, resulting in border closures and flight suspension. Long's company was among the victims.
To maintain company operations and feed hundreds of employees, he invested in all kinds of businesses, from selling agricultural products to producing hand sanitizer, though each had failed.
Until April last year when the pandemic turned more complicated to result in nationwide social distancing of more than three weeks, he decided to sell his house and car to invest in a new field: medical mask production.
In the early days, Long's company had no experience in importing machinery, so the first batches of masks produced failed to ensure quality and were rejected by the customers. Then, when domestic demand became less competitive, his products remained unsold, leaving some employees frustrated, and others giving up.
Gradually, thanks to a close relationship with his partners, Long imported machinery from Germany and raw materials to make standard antibacterial masks. The boxes of Vietnamese-branded masks produced by the company so far have been present in dozens of countries like the U.S., Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
Long said although the medical mask business has been thriving, he will not give up his travel company. Up to now, more than 30 percent of his travel company's employees are still working, ready to serve tourists when the pandemic is brought under control.
"My biggest wish is to bring Vietnamese tourists to more countries around the world. Therefore, I still invest in other business fields at the same time to ensure cash flow and keep my travel company from going bankrupt," Long said.
Hanoi-based Viet Vision Travel Company run by Nguyen Duc Trung has also been experiencing ups and downs since last year due to the impacts of Covid-19. After the government suspended all international routes in March last year, he decided to put his savings as well as borrowed money into building a kids' playground in Cam Binh mountainous commune of Thanh Hoa Province.
The playground entered operation in June last year, targeting families with children in the mountainous commune and surrounding areas where kid’s entertainment remains limited.
Trung's playground for kids in Thanh Hoa Province came into operation in June 2020. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Duc Trung.
He also invested in a food court and guestroom system. During the weekends, he earns revenues of VND3.5-4 million a day. Trung said in addition to improving his income, it also helps to create jobs for dozens of local workers while partly meeting the entertainment needs of locals.
Trung said after the recent Tet holiday, his travel company has signed many contracts for this year's spring festival and summer holidays, but that all summer tours were halted due to the new wave of Covid-19 outbreak. His company came near to cutting all employees to reduce costs.
"Despite difficulties triggered by the pandemic, it also gave me an opportunity to try new fields of business, improve my income and continue my passion for tourism," Trung added.
A survey released by Vietnam’s Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) showed as of March this year, 39 percent of staff in the tourism sector had been unable to resume work, while 61 percent had returned to work with reduced salaries and working hours.
Vietnam recorded a 79 percent decline year-on-year in the number of foreign visitors in 2020 due to travel restrictions amid the pandemic as the country received 3.83 million foreign tourists against a record 18 million in 2019, according to official data.
The government has closed national borders and canceled all international flights since March 25, 2020 with only Vietnamese repatriates, foreign experts, officials, diplomats, investors and highly-skilled workers allowed in with stringent conditions.