Hanoi’s Old Quarter reels under Covid-19 blows

Hanoi’s Old Quarter reels under Covid-19 blows

Covid-19 has shut down many businesses in Hanoi’s iconic Old Quarter, one of the most popular tourist attractions. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong

The fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic has become distressingly evident in Hanoi’s iconic Old Quarter, where for-rent signs have mushroomed on closed building gates.

Figures from the tax department of Hoan Kiem District, where the Old Quarter is located, show 390 businesses and 1,155 merchant families making a living by providing services in their house and on the sidewalk have either temporarily suspended operations or closed for good.

“In the past, there were many tourists, mostly Westerners. Now there are no customers,” said Linh, a souvenir shop owner on Ma May Street, adding that she spends her days these days cleaning and organizing dusty items.

Nearby, Nhung’s banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich) shop on Dinh Liet Street, usually crowded with customers, now is deserted.

“We used to sell about 400-500 banh mi from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. Now we only sell about 150,” she said.

To attract more Vietnamese customers, she has a discount program for online orders and has cut down delivery fees. She also plans to add more items to the menu soon.

Like many other shop owners in the Old Quarter, she wants the world to be free from the coronavirus so that international tourism can resume.

According to the Hoan Kiem District People’s Committee, the pandemic has negatively impacted its growth targets, especially with tourism revenues falling almost 65 percent year-on-year in the first half of the year.

Before the pandemic hit Vietnam, the district attracted about 30,000 international visitors a week on average, with the Old Quarter its biggest draw.

In March, when Hanoi became a Covid-19 hotspot, the district saw just 2,000-3,000 visitors per week. From May until last weekend, this figure plunged to a dismal 500-700 with no relief in immediate sight.