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Virtual travel one step ahead of real travel



The tourism industry is facing post-pandemic recovery challenges, but “virtual tourism” may be a new direction to open up breakthrough opportunities.

Having studied abroad for four years in the US, Ms. Hoan (Hanoi) has lasting memories about Yosemite National Park in Sierra Nevada, California. It was at the romantic Tenaya Lake located between the Yosemite and Tuolumne valleys where Hoan and her husband Tuan first met and it was also the place where Tuan proposed five years ago.

They have returned to Vietnam to settle down and will return to Yosemite on the occasion of their third wedding anniversary, to conquer the Half Dome at an altitude of 2,438 meters above sea level. The plan was missed in 2020 when Hoan’s family received the good news that they would have a new member.

A travel fanatic, Tram and her friends planned to travel Japan in early 2020. Although they carefully prepared, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic forced Tram’s group to change their destination to a tourist site in Vietnam to ensure safety. However, Tram and her friends could not miss Hanami (the Japanese cherry blossom festival takes place every March to April), and they chose a special way to enjoy flowers via virtual travel.

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Virtual tourism is becoming a popular trend.

The origin of the term “Virtual Tour” dates back to 1994 after the demonstration of a 3D reconstruction of Dudley Castle in England in the 1550s. With the advancement of technology, it is now possible for tourists to choose a destination and experience a virtual tour through their computer screen or phone. Combined with virtual reality and augmented virtual reality, one can get lost in a world that is as vivid as the real one.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for entertainment has increased, and solutions to provide new experiences for users have had opportunities to be used. Virtual travel is one such solution.

Travel anywhere

With just one click, the couple – Hoan and Tuan – was immediately present at Tenaya Lake, Yosemite Waterfall or Half Dome – where it will take 11 hours to walk and climb to reach. On the website of Yosemite National Park, “visitors” of these virtual tours can choose up to 200 destinations with a 360-degree view and real sounds like birds singing, waterfall sounds, voices of people and even footsteps stepping on dry branches.

“This is a really special experience, because even if we returned to Yosemite, we wouldn’t have had enough time and energy to visit all of these places,” Hoan said after exploring the free virtual tour on the website.

Offering destinations with vivid 360-degree images, Yosemite National Park also provides users a set of cards with great pictures such as Half Dome at sunset, a reflection of El Capitan on the Merced River, flowers blooming in summer on the field of McGurk, the moon on South Rim or hoarfrost below North Dome. These special cards are priced between $3-$50 and delivered to the user.

This is an option at a time when many services in Yosemite National Park are being interrupted due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Great Wall (China) Management Board, Paris Tourism Office, Egypt Tourism Administration and NASA are also offering similar virtual tours.

According to statistics, 80% of tourists prefer to find information for virtual travel through the internet by themselves. In particular, up to 36% of customers are willing to pay more if transactions are easy and interaction is good.

New trend

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The future of tourism is likely to depend on virtual tourism.

Virtual tourism is also an emerging trend in Japan. First Airlines is the world’s first provider of virtual flights at an altitude of 8,000 meters, combined with a ground tour service depending on the user’s demand.

Within 120 minutes, customers can fully experience the local customs and cuisine of New York, California, Hawaii, Paris, Rome, Finland, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and other countries. In addition, visitors can also choose to travel through time and space, as well as enjoy delicious “on-board meals” prepared by top chefs.

It takes about 15 minutes for users to perform real-life activities such as check-in with their tickets, passports and boarding passes. On the virtual plane, there are 180-degree tilt design and layout similar to an Airbus A310, including flight attendants instructing passengers on how to use seat belts, oxygen masks, life jackets …

When the plane takes off, the outside screens will show different simulated scenes, the seats will also shake in bad weather. If you choose to travel through time and space, you can also visit Angkor Wat in the 12th century and the Berlin Wall in 1989. The tour ends with a special meal ordered in advance by the user, served by professional “flight attendants”.

First Airlines’ virtual flights have inspired Japanese travel agencies to offer “virtual tours”. Using virtual reality glasses, the viewer takes a 90-minute virtual tour to Mount Fuji for ten-member groups through a live, guide a very popular tour in Japan in 2020. The tour guide introduced tourist destinations in the form of clips via livestream, answered questions raised by visitors, introduced local souvenirs and sent them to visitors. This virtual tour has been booked by many foreign tourists.

For Tram and her friends, they also chose to attend livestream events, combined with the use of Virtual Reality VR devices. Although it is not really satisfied, this is the best way to admire the cherry blossoms during the time of epidemic.

Virtual travel will save tourism industry

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Virtual tour to Son Doong Cave on National Geographic

Owing to the impact of Covid, the tourism industry of Vietnam witnessed a sharp decline in the number of domestic and international tourists. The total number of tourists served by accommodation establishments in 2020 was estimated at 97.3 million, a decrease of 44% compared to 2019. The number of visitors served by tour operators was 3.7 million, down 80.1%.

International visitors to Vietnam dropped by 78.7% compared to 2019, reaching only 3.8 million arrivals. The sharp decline in the number of domestic and international tourists led to a sharp drop in revenue for accommodation and travel establishments, estimated at VND61.8 trillion, down 43.2%.

This was also the common situation in many countries. The growth of the world tourism industry was dragged back to the level of 1990 with the number of tourists falling 72% in the first 10 months of 2020 alone. Reduction in the number of tourists means a loss of $935 billion of total revenue from international visitors. This is 10 times higher than the loss of the world tourism industry caused by the impact of the global economic crisis in 2009.

The loss of the global tourism industry could cost global GDP up to $2 trillion. Asia Pacific, the first region affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the region with the highest travel restrictions to date, saw an 82% decrease in arrivals in the first 10 months of 2020. The Middle East saw a decrease of 73% of visitors, while it was 69% for Africa and 68% for Europe and the Americas.

Opportunities for Vietnam’s tourism industry

Virtual tourism has been implemented in Vietnam, such as virtual tours to the world’s largest cave of Son Doong (Quang Binh province), Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake or Moc Chau plateau (Son La province) with tourist sites like Dai Yem waterfall, and the pine forest in Ang hamlet. However, not many Vietnamese know about this form of tourism.

In March 2020, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung issued a directive to launch a campaign to apply Vietnamese technology in the cause of digital transformation. The directive emphasized the development of a digital content system to serve entertainment needs with platforms, applications and services such as e-books, online music, online movies and virtual travel.

New technologies will bring about many opportunities for the local tourism industry. The release of some apps has shown signs that virtual tourism can also be developed strongly in Vietnam in the future. To deploy effectively in different locations, it is necessary to have appropriate solutions and promotions.

Diep Luu



Popular train routes suspended amid fresh Covid-19 outbreak



Popular train routes suspended amid fresh Covid-19 outbreak

Sa Pa Town in Lao Cai Province, northern Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/John Bill.

Railway operators have cancelled several trains to popular tourist destinations from Friday due to dwindling travel demand amid a surge in Covid-19 community transmissions.

Hanoi Railway Transport JSC, the northern operator, has cancelled trains from Vinh, capital of central Nghe An Province, to Hanoi starting Friday.

It also announced the suspension of trains connecting Hanoi with northern port city Hai Phong, home to Do Son Beach and UNESCO heritage site Cat Ba National Park, and northern Lao Cai Province, famed for resort town Sa Pa.

A company representative said train travel demand often decreases in May since many people had already returned to their hometowns during the Reunification Day (April 30) holiday while Hanoi and northern provinces are struggling with a new wave of Covid-19, leaving many areas under lockdown.

Travel destinations in Hanoi, Hai Phong and northern provinces like Quang Ninh, Ha Nam, Thai Binh and Nam Dinh have stopped receiving tourists amid the surge in community transmissions.

Saigon Railway Transport JSC, the southern operator, will suspend several trains from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, a popular beach town in central Khanh Hoa Province, from Sunday.

Vietnam has recorded 121 Covid-19 community transmissions since April 27. Previously, it had been clean for over a month.


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Pu Luong a fantastic retreat for nature lovers



Fresh air, cloud-draped mountain ranges, and stunning terraced rice fields come together to make Pu Luong Nature Reserve in the central province of Thanh Hoa’s Ba Thuoc and Quan Hoa districts look like art works.

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Pu Luong makes an ideal destination for a short break, as it is surrounded by nature, though neighther too far from Hanoi nor too expensive. Travellers with a penchant for nature will be spoilt for choice while discovering this nature reserve.

Pu Luong is known as “gate to the sky”, where tourists can strike a pose while enjoying the breathtaking panoramic views of the Pu Luong Nature Reserve, with colourful forest flowers, native animals, and tranquil villages.

When local farmers flood the fields to prepare for a new crop, a spectacular sight emerges, with giant natural mirrors reflecting the blue sky. It is also magical to see the slopes and valleys of Pu Luong turn yellow during the ripe rice season.

Travellers can also enjoy the fantastic scenery of forests, fields and valleys from the top of Pu Luong, at 1,700-metres.

Discovering the local cuisine and culture is a highlight of any trip to Pu Luong. There is nothing more delightful than food made from ingredients grown right in the area./. VNA


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Visiting Dien Bien Phu Campaign Headquarters in Muong Phang



The headquarters of Dien Bien Phu campaign in Muong Phang Commune, Dien Bien Phu City is a historic place associated with the Dien Bien Phu Victory which “resounded throughout the five continents and was world-shaking”. 

Along with the Dien Bien Phu Victory Historical Relics, the Dien Bien Phu Campaign Headquarters Relic Site and the supporting tourist destination are always “red addresses” attracting tourists when they set foot on the northwestern province of Dien Bien.

Visiting Dien Bien Phu Campaign Headquarters in Muong Phang
The headquarters of the Dien Bien Phu campaign were hidden in the old forest at the foot of Pu Don Mountain in Muong Phang Commune, nearly 40 km from Dien Bien Phu City. This is where General Vo Nguyen Giap and the members of the Command Committee of the Dien Bien Phu campaign were often stationed to work and rest.

With the tunnels and shacks layed out in a continuous system, hidden in the old forest at the foot of Pu Don Mountain, for the 105 days from January 31, 1954, to May 15, 1954, the absolute safety of the important headquarters of the Dien Bien Phu campaign was ensured.

The road to the headquarters of the Dien Bien Phu campaign has been upgraded with a concrete road running more than 1 km through the forest of Muong Phang to help visitors recall old memories.

From the headquarters, going up to the highest point, visitors can observe the entire Dien Bien Phu City, Muong Thanh Valley and former French bases such as Him Lam Hill, A1, C1, C2, D1 Hills, and Independent Hill.

The shack where General Vo Nguyen Giap, the Commander-in-Chief of the Vietnam People’s Army and the Commander-in-Chief of the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, lived and worked.

Between General Vo Nguyen Giap’s shack and the shacks of Chief of the General Staff Hoang Van Thai and of the Chinese military consultants Wei Quojing is a 69-metre-long tunnel.

The tunnel is 1.70 metres high and 1 to 3 metres wide. In the middle of the tunnel, there is a conference room measuring 18 square meters and 5 locations for communication machines.

Hall house was the venue for the daily meetings of the Command Committee of the Dien Bien Phu campaign. Everything is still intact, retaining the mark of history.

Visitors enjoy Hoang Cam stove, a type of smoke-free stove that ensured the safety of the base.

In addition, Muong Phang also attracts tourists with the production activities of the Thai ethnic group.

Traditional brocade weaving of the Thai ethnic group in Can Che Village.

Nhan Dan


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