In recent days, the gloomy tourism market became bustling when some Vietnamese travel agents offered the so-called vaccine tour, combining visits and vaccine shots, to the US. The tour has drawn the attention of customers, mostly high-income people, who called to inquire about it.
|This photo was taken at a community vaccination site in Seattle, Washington, US on March 13, 2021. Almost 47% of American adults have got full vaccination. Photo: AFP/VNA
It is offered with a price of at least VND45 million (nearly US$2,000) for the one-way air trip from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to the US, covering an eight-day stay and one shot of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, according to Hong Ngoc Ha Travel Company.
The price of vaccine tour varies depending on the time of departure and kinds of vaccine, a representative from Kiwi Travel Company told Hanoitimes that: “Our tours include costs of tickets and accommodation establishments, as well as pharmacies in the US,” he said.
The vaccine tours have attracted great attention around the community as Vietnam is facing the fourth wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, pushing vaccination an urgent task.
Local tour operators were excited when having found such a way to keep their businesses running amid the pandemic. Travel restriction and border closure as preventive measures against Covid-19 has negatively affected local travel businesses, especially the inbound market for a year and a half now.
The US is chosen as a safe destination for the vaccine tours as this country has policies to support Covid-19 vaccination for international visitors.
The country has provided free numerous high-quality vaccines for its population that is produced by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – the world-leading pharmaceutical giants.
As of mid-May, almost 47% of American adults have got full vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The US President set the goal of having 70% of adults administered with at least one shot by July 4 – its Independence Day.
Possible or not?
However, the HCMC tourism authority has recently requested travel businesses to suspend vaccine tours to the US until early 2022, citing the impossibility of the tour that includes unexpected side-effects after being vaccinated in the US, in addition to having no return ticket.
|Vietnamese businesses expect to soon resume the inbound market. Photo: Kiwi Travel
Tu Quy Thanh, Director of the Lien Bang Travel Company, said that it is too early to launch an outbound tour due to entry regulations and the long quarantine period of 21 days for foreign arrivals in some foreign countries.
Sharing the same view, Chairman of Viking Travel Company Tran Xuan Hung said that all issues related to health should be carefully considered, especially getting vaccinated in foreign countries. “The travelers may face incidents after injection and travel insurance will not a solution for this,” he told Hanoitimes.
“The initiative is good but not reasonable at this time.”
Thang Tran, President of the New York-based Institute for Vietnamese Culture & Education (IVCE) said that it is impossible to launch the vaccine tours at this time.
According to the CDC, the US federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the US, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status. “Vietnamese people eligible for inoculation are those residing in the US currently,” he told Hanoitimes.
“Some states of the US may not require residency for Covid-19 vaccination,” Thang said.
To boost the local tourism industry, Alaska’s authorities have announced that travelers could get free vaccines at the state’s major airports starting this June.
Thang added that in September – when the US reaches its target of 70% of adults getting vaccinated, the opportunity will open up for the vaccine seekers from other countries including Vietnam.
Hung from Viking Travel Company suggested that the vaccine seekers should travel to Asian countries for the jabs. “Why the US? Singapore, not far from Vietnam, is one of the best destinations when the country allows entry of non-vaccinated people from Vietnam,” he said.
The number of fully vaccinated people is still low and Vietnam would lag behind many countries in terms of vaccination. “The opportunity for Vietnamese travelers to go abroad is low and it is difficult for the outbound travel to resume as many expected,” Hung said.
“When Vietnam can well control the disease, the inbound segment will be resumed soon,” he underlined. “Next step is the opportunity for the outbound market to recover.”
As of May 10, statistics by Vietnam’s Ministry of Health showed that the Covid-19 vaccine has been administered to nearly 955,000 people or nearly 1% out of 98 million people in the country.