Authorities said there were plans to launch a pilot plan to bring tourists to some islands with strict safety measures to ensure the health of locals and foreigners.

The National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, has asked the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry to prepare a schedule and road map to welcome foreign tourists for its consideration.

Vietnam has suspended international flights since March 25 and banned entry of foreign nationals since March 22, except for special cases.

Authorities in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang had earlier proposed welcoming foreign visitors to Vietnam’s largest island, Phu Quoc.

Phu Quoc, also known as “pearl island”, has become a top tourist destination in the country after it opened an international airport in 2012 and began implementing a 30-day visa-free policy for foreigners since 2014.

The island welcomed more than five million visitors last year, up 30 per cent from 2018. Of these, 541,600 were foreigners.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism said last week that it was hoping to kickstart tourism again with select openings for foreign visitors.

It said that it was preparing plans to welcome visitors from countries and territories in anticipation of recovery and disease control in key markets such as Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia.

WeSwap, the UK’s largest travel money provider, this week listed Vietnam among the first economies likely to restart international tourism following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vietnam has gone 49 days without any new transmission of Covid-19. It has reported 327 infections without any death.

The number of active cases stands at 49.

With an international flight ban in place, Vietnam saw a 38 per cent year-on-year drop in the January-April number of foreign visitors to 3.7 million. It was accompanied by a corresponding 45 per cent drop in tourism revenues to VND7.9 trillion.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Trinh Thi Thuy said localities and travel businesses had responded warmly to the domestic tourism stimulus programme, offering discounts and new products.

“Hotel occupancy rates have reached 80-90 per cent and even 100 per cent in some places, which are good signs for domestic tourism,” he added.

This article was originally published in NST