Hope High for Vietnam’s Return to International Tourism

From airlines to travel companies, Vietnam’s tourism industry is hoping to get the green light to resume international commercial flights, starting in November.

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However, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a significant challenge worldwide, necessitating a cautious and vigilant approach to reopen.

Vietnam's international tourism looks forward to re-opening
Airplanes grounded at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. — VNA/VNS Photo Huy Hung

In mid-October, the Civil Aviation Authority proposed to the Ministry of Transport to launch pilot flights for foreign tourists to selected destinations in Vietnam later this year. This initiative aims to revive the tourism sector and stimulate economic recovery.

Starting in November, popular destinations such as Phu Quoc, Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang, and Quang Ninh will be permitted to welcome foreign tourists.

Trinh Thi My Nghe, Vice-chairwoman of the Hanoi Travel and Tourism Association, stated, “This is a rational proposal to support the airlines and the tourism industry, which have been the most severely impacted by the pandemic over the past two years.”

The selected destinations have tourist sources from China, South Korea, Russia, and Australia, which have shown success in pandemic prevention efforts.

In order to attract foreign tourists, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has proposed that foreigners will not be required to quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 upon arrival in Vietnam.

If approved, this measure will enhance Vietnam’s competitiveness with other countries, such as Thailand and Singapore, who are also in the process of reopening their doors to foreign tourists.

Vietnam Airlines continues to offer commercial flights departing from Vietnam to certain countries, but it has not yet resumed international flights for general tourists.

A representative from Vietnam Airlines expressed concern that if Vietnam does not reopen its international air routes soon, it may miss out on opportunities to attract visitors as neighboring countries have already resumed international flights without requiring full vaccination, only negative PCR tests.

Safety concerns

While the tourism industry is eager to receive foreign visitors, market insiders have emphasized the importance of a careful and gradual reopening in accordance with the pandemic situation. Safety protocols must be established and maintained.

“Regulations on quarantine and health guidelines are still essential,” Nghe said, emphasizing that if Vietnam experiences a sudden surge in tourists and a resurgence of the disease, it will be challenging to control the situation.

World health experts have predicted another outbreak of COVID-19 by the end of this year. Many countries, including China, Singapore, South Korea, and some EU states, have recently reported a surge in infections.

Despite a high vaccination rate, Singapore has been facing an unusual surge of 5,324 new infections, the highest figure since the beginning of the pandemic.

China is making significant efforts to contain the spread of the disease, which has affected 11 provinces across the country.

The regular updating of pandemic prevention regulations is crucial. The prevention of the pandemic remains Vietnam’s top priority,” Nghe added.

Under the pilot program for foreign visitors, tourists must present a certificate proving they have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days but no more than 12 months before arrival. They must also provide a negative PCR test result obtained within 72 hours before departure and book a tour package through designated travel agencies.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently recognizing the “vaccine passports” of 72 countries and territories and is in discussions with nearly 80 others to establish mutual recognition of such passports.

Several localities, such as Da Nang, Khanh Hoa, and Phu Quoc, have proposed pilot plans to welcome foreign tourists in November, and travel agencies are prepared. However, the tourism industry does not anticipate a significant recovery until next year.

According to Vietravel, the aviation and tourism sectors are expected to recover slowly in the last quarter of this year, as tourists will remain cautious due to the evolving disease situation and control measures.

“The current implementation is still quite conservative, with varying vaccination rates among different localities,” a representative from Vietravel commented.

Tourism encompasses various aspects of the economy, so recovery in the sector requires synchronization with related sectors such as transportation, accommodation, entertainment services, and local businesses.

Vietravel predicts that there will be a rapid increase in demand for tourism and aviation within the domestic market towards the end of December and the first quarter of 2022, coinciding with many upcoming holidays.

“For the foreign market, Vietravel and Vietravel Airlines are expected to restore products and routes in June 2022. According to our assessment, the demand for traveling abroad is high. However, the reopening will proceed cautiously, resulting in a relatively slow recovery in the initial period,” the company stated.

Vietnam’s plan to welcome international visitors will begin in November of this year, starting with “combo packages” that include an airline ticket, COVID-19 testing fees, accommodation for quarantine, and visits to selected destinations.

The second phase, set to start next year, aims to introduce more international air routes and reopen additional destinations.

In the third phase, a full reopening will be decided based on the progress made in the first two phases and the development of the pandemic.

Source: Vietnam News