Starting a Business During a Pandemic

“You have to be crazy to start a business now”, friends scolded Nguyen Thi Thanh when hearing that she built a resort in Ba Vi, Hanoi at the time of the stressful epidemic.

With a person who has just been “punched for a face by Covid-19”, Ms. Thanh, 41 years old, in Me Tri, Nam Tu Liem understands why her friends are worried about her.

Previously, her travel company had a regular revenue of 50-80 billion VND per year. In March 2020, the outbreak of the pandemic caused the entire tour to be cancelled. The air ticket deposit, the hotel cannot immediately recover, while still having to refund the guest. All of a sudden it all came crashing down.

“Twenty years in the profession, having experienced the SARS epidemic and now Covid-19, I did not anticipate the terrible devastation of the epidemic,” she confessed.

With no other choice, Nguyen Thi Thanh closed the company and tried to redirect the business. From experience, I think during the pandemic, people still need to rest. Moreover, social distancing makes people frustrated, wanting to find quiet and airy places that are still safe from the epidemic. If a product satisfies this need, it will surely attract customers.

At that time, a friend asked Ms. Thanh to buy a piece of land in the Ba Vi mountainous area, and she came up with the idea of ​​​​building a resort with isolated homestays. In March 2020, the plan began to be implemented.

Overview of a homestay of Ms. Thanh completed in June 2020. Photo: Character provided.

Each homestay of Ms. Thanh is an apartment, fully equipped with swimming pool, garden, surrounded by hills and fields. Each apartment has its own butler to take care of and clean, which can meet the requirement of a 5K vacation during the epidemic season.

When large resorts have to close, the homestay model located right in the locality is the optimal choice for families. At the end of June 2020, the homestay welcomed the first group of guests. After 10 days, the number of bookings was full until the end of August. For holidays and Tet, guests must book a whole month in advance. From the beginning of 2021 until now, the number of bookings has maintained about 60-80%.

“Luckily, I started my business early,” said Ms. Thanh. Statistics from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism show that Covid-19 has created “an unprecedented crisis in history”. More than 300 international travel businesses had to revoke their licenses, 90% of tourism businesses had to close, and nearly 20% of tourism businesses across the country had to lay off all employees.

According to Nguyen Ngoc Dung, Vice President of the Vietnam E-commerce Association, Covid-19 “tortures the economy”, but the difficulties it creates are also a driving force for new ideas and new development opportunities. .

Evaluating the idea of ​​”isolated homestay against Covid” of Ms. Thanh, Ms. Phan Thi Ngan, lecturer at the Faculty of Tourism and Vietnam Studies, Nguyen Tat Thanh University (HCMC), said that this is a model with opportunities for development. developed in areas less affected by the epidemic.

According to her, isolated accommodation in the suburbs, with large space and no restrictions on movement help people relieve stress when the epidemic lasts for a long time. However, the risk will also be great, business people will immediately suffer if that area becomes a “red zone” or measures to restrict movement, ban gatherings or tighten business to prevent local epidemic,” the expert warned.

Duy Thinh prepares a table for guests in February 2021.  Photo: Character provided.

Duy Thinh prepares dining table for guests at homestay in hamlet 1A, Thach Dong Phu commune, Giong Trom district, Ben Tre, February 2021. Photo: Character provided.

What Ngan feared happened to Quach Duy Thinh, 29 years old, in Giong Trom, Ben Tre. His two family homestays have been closed for the past 4 months because of the fourth wave of Covid-19.

Before September 2020, Thinh was the deputy director of a resort, but the pandemic caused him to lose his job and return home empty-handed. Although he applied for a job at the English center and taught soft skills classes, he missed the customers and craved the job, so he quit.

Thinh realizes that the demand for travel during the epidemic season has changed. The fear of the epidemic makes people often go to wild places, few people and inclined to experience. He decided to renovate the level 4 house he was staying in into a homestay with the desire to attract guests to experience the daily life of the river.

Ben Tre boy borrowed 100 million VND and started implementing the idea. He kept the structure of the house intact, tweaking the details to harmonize with the surrounding landscape. At the end of 2020, a small homestay in hamlet 1A, Thach Dong Phu commune, Giong Trom district officially welcomes guests. In order to serve attentively and also comply with epidemic prevention regulations, Thinh only accepts a maximum of 6 guests at a time.

“Coming to the homestay, visitors will visit the village of Son Doc puff pastry, the Roman church, explore the garden and make their own specialties”, Thinh began to tell when someone asked, “Finally enjoy rustic country meal with grilled eggplant with onion fat, boiled crayfish, salted chicken with pomelo leaves…”

Duy Thinh's small homestay in Ben Tre early January 2021.  Photo: Character provided.

Duy Thinh’s homestay in Ben Tre early January 2021. Photo: Character provided.

In May of this year, he built another house right next to the main house, but before he could open the door, the epidemic broke out. “Six or seven tours with a deposit before they can go, dozens of people call to book every day, but I don’t dare to accept it,” Thinh said.

During the epidemic break, he is learning how to bake cakes, preparing more small gifts to give to customers, waiting for the service to reopen.

“Starting a business during the epidemic is not crazy. People think it’s a failure, but I’m not,” Quach Duy Thinh affirmed.

Quynh Nguyen


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