Tourism workers back at their job with excitement, apprehension

 Tourism workers back at their job with excitement, apprehension

Staff of Oxalis pose for a photo inside Tien Cave in Quang Binh Province, October 23, 2021. Photo courtesy of Oxalis Adventure

After months of being jobless due to the Covid-19 outbreaks, tourism workers are glad to return to work though with trepidation about health risks and future job prospects.

Dang Ha My, who works at the Dam Sen amusement park, a popular tourist attraction in HCMC, said she was relieved to go back to work on November 6 after over five months of staying at home.

The 55-year-old, who has worked at the park for 27 years, said: "There is no greater joy than going back to work. I've waited so long for this day and I couldn't even sleep the night before as I missed my job and colleagues.

"I have never experienced such a long break. I need to continue working to take care of my family."

Ho Trong Dai, a tour guide at Quang Binh Province-based tour operator Oxalis Adventure, is excited to see the return of tourists after over four months.

"I was really happy and could not hide my excitement as my boss told me to receive a group of tourists from HCMC at Dong Hoi Airport on October 15."

They were the first group of domestic tourists since the country reopened.

"The first tour I have served after the pandemic might be one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life," Dai added.

Without the pandemic, it would have been a busy summer season for him as tourists flock to UNESCO heritage site Phong Nha-Ke Bang and the world’s largest cave Son Doong for exploration tours.

His income was severely affected as the Delta variant of Covid ravaged the peak travel season. He was one of over 9,000 guides in the country to receive VND3.71 million ($163.73) in relief payment from the government.

Infection fears

However, My is worried about contracting the virus at work and spreading it among family members since the city still records a 1,000 cases every day, with even fully vaccinated people becoming infected.

"I am over 50 and so I also fear that if I get infected, I might have serious health problems," she said.

HCMC has recorded over 447,000 infections in the fourth wave that began in April. Its high vaccination rate and a shift from a zero-virus strategy to living with the pandemic has enabled the city to lift most restrictions since Oct. 1.

Dai is also worried about what the future holds since no one knows when the pandemic will end and normalcy will return.

Though domestic flights have resumed and many provinces and cities have restarted domestic tourism activities, quarantine rules and travel restrictions remain a hurdle.

His colleague Dinh Huu Chung, a porter, had to rely on the company's support for months before going back to work in October, and is concerned that such long tourism suspension might happen again.

"The future of tourism-reliant workers like us will not be stable if the pandemic goes on for longer and Covid-related travel restrictions remain in place and international tourism is still closed," Chung said.

The workers are hoping to see the return of foreign tourists after over two years and expecting the government to ease restrictions so that domestic tourism can take off.

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