2020 turned out to be the opening year of a wild decade with many rapid social and economic changes ahead.
In order to best survive and thrive in these challenging times, which also provide ample opportunity if one becomes proactive about one’s matters, it becomes more important than before to locate oneself at the right spot on the planet.
As it turns out, Vietnam seems to be one of the more promising places for working professionals and young people eager to live out their entrepreneurial drives.
Not only did Vietnam manage to squash outbreaks of a certain virus twice this year and keeping its local economy more or less opened – despite the blow to its export-oriented manufacturing industries which are still expected to *grow* at a rate of 2.5 percent in 2020, while many Western countries saw declines of their GDP in the double-digit percent range.
Nice weather and beaches, abundance of locally produced food and delicious dishes made out of these ingredients, favourable demographics and an overall socio-economic environment which signalizes “We are open for business!” make Vietnam one of the more attractive places to be if one is seeking out economic opportunity in a peaceful setting for mind & body.
With international travel restrictions and locked borders still in place, the question however is – how do I get (back) to that paradise place?
We spoke on this matter with David Watson, himself a Vietnam-based lifetime entrepreneur and General Director of Future.Travel.
BV News: Hello David! 2020 was certainly not the easiest year to operate a business in the travel and tourism industry. How have you guys been holding up, how did you and your business use the downtime in the travel sector and do you see light at the end of the tunnel for 2021 and beyond?
David Watson: We see 2020 as literally the year to get the vision straight for both business, professional and personal survival and growth. For businesses the year’s profit will be measured in part by the fact you are still trading. In a year like this when the norm crumbles around you it is showing the businesses who built on a solid foundation are the survivors and those whose model was more toward the quick spin or even ponzi style of growth had their demise fast tracked.
Future.Travel is surviving, and growing…not growing in revenue necessarily, rather in increasing our corporate customer base as the ‘self booking’ corporate traveller had disaster after disaster that needed a professional agent to fix. In product development we are focusing to aid and support travellers looking for easy and comprehensive solutions for travel and holidays.
This year we have added cruises to our online systems (previously all bookings were done manually in house), added a payment gateway through NeutronPay which provides the ability for customers to use the Lightning Network for Bitcoin payments, assisted getting the first Vietnamese language supported Lightning/Bitcoin functioning at Wallet of Satoshi, built and deployed a Lightning Network ATM into the Future.Travel office in Vietnam, and by the end of October 2020 will add more than 200,000 rail connections to Future.Travel’s online booking engine, allowing travelers to book train tickets throughout Europe and North America. Planes,trains, hotels are all able to be paid instantly online with crypto currencies and via traditional credit card route.
2021 is a huge growth year for the planet and for travel in general. Asia has shown that Covid-19 can be managed in large populations and transmission is minimal with social rules being followed. This basically will open the doors to safe travel in 2021 intra-Asia who, in my estimation, will lead the way to a global tourism revival. Add to this enhanced testing techniques and isolation protocols by governments and regulators and the picture is one of increasing travel.
BV News: As outlined above, Vietnam seems to have been one of the better places to be during this chaotic opening year of the 2020’s. Why should somebody in the West possibly consider Vietnam as a favourable place to relocate in the upcoming years?
David Watson: Vietnam is still a developing nation. While other nations are on the decline or decay on the society/economic clock, Vietnam is still creating opportunities for the community to prosper. The Vietnamese business community is still growing in most cases, despite the collapse or precarious position of other first world economies.
I am a fan club for helping develop new enterprises and opportunities. From that standpoint I encourage people and businesses to look at Vietnam as a place to incubate and develop a business. Cost of labour is higher than some Asian neighbors but the quality of the work, if guided, is some of the best in the world. That is why you see the multi-nationals with factories and high tech parks here. Tax wise the first 5 years are tax free so the incentive to invest in building a business is very good.
The silver lining in the cloud comes with a stormy coating being ‘reality’. It is not easy to do business in Vietnam without local connections and understanding. A lot of foreign people/companies lose money here in failed ventures as they try to fit their western or foreign image of how things work into a Vietnam reality. Best to leave your ego at the door and be willing to adapt and compromise on some issues you take for granted elsewhere.
BV News: All that said, Vietnam has kept its borders tightly sealed since early March and only in recent weeks started to gradually ease travel restrictions for professionals and investors who were able to provide the required paperwork. How is the current travel situation for Vietnam, when and in which form do you expect further relaxation of travel restrictions and how can you guys possibly help somebody looking to navigate the process to make its way back into Vietnam?
David Watson: Vietnam is a success story on many fronts both economically and socially. The lockdown in March seemed late in some ways when you are on the ground and the news coming out of Europe was getting worse every day. In hindsight the government managed to keep the borders open as long as possible and when they closed them, and locked down public movement, it worked very well to prevent the spread of the virus.
Fast forward 7 months to October and the decisions that seemed logical for us in Vietnam and overbearing for some countries earlier in the year, have stood the test of time and Vietnam is and has been virtually virus free. With that as a platform to grow from the country is letting more people into the country. Business first.
If you are a business and have essential workers, experts, that need to enter the country to help grow the business and economy there is a set pathway for them and family members to enter the country. Likewise, foreign investors in Vietnamese companies have a similar pathway into Vietnam. For Vietnamese living or currently outside of Vietnam the Vietnamese government has repatriation flights multiple times every week and now some countries now have regular inbound commercial and charter flights for Vietnamese citizens. We at Future.Travel manage the process for companies and individuals to return to, and departing from, Vietnam. Sometimes going to another restricted access country is as difficult as it is to enter Vietnam. We support people travelling in both directions get through the paperwork and permissions as well as getting them on a flight.
We seriously do not have a crystal ball to predict the future. Travel requirements change daily (without consulting us!) and yet the signs are good for us to see relaxation of travel restrictions as new testing systems are implemented to provide accurate 1-5 minute testing that can be completed at the airport prior to departure and on arrival into destination airports. Long before vaccinations are available, the screening of potential virus carriers will be carried out by airports and airlines, which will set into motion the recovery of international travel to Vietnam. Until that new reality is in place, it is still possible to travel to Vietnam. It just takes the right combination of circumstances to make it happen.