Vietnam likely to resume int’l commercial flights from Q1 2022

In the first phase, there will be four one-way flights per week with a total number of arrivals of up to 12,000.

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Vietnam will likely reopen its borders to international commercial flights from the first quarter of 2022, giving passengers entry without pre-approval from the competent authorities and performing routine immigration and medical control procedures.

 The first commercial flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi was on October 11. HNT Photo: Khanh Huy

This was the first of the three-phase resumption plan for inbound tourism that the Ministry of Transport is seeking approval from the Prime Minister by submitting on November 8.

Regular flights will be relaunched with China, Hong Kong (China), Japan, South Korea, Taiwan (China), Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, Australia, and other safe markets not subject to entry restrictions under the direction of the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control.

These 15 countries and territories, which have a higher number of fully vaccinated people than Vietnam, are conducting full-package international flights on a trial basis.

In the first phase, there will be four one-way flights per week for each with a total number of arrivals to Vietnam of up to 12,000.

Passengers are required to be fully vaccinated and isolated for seven days according to the guidance of the Ministry of Health. Those who have not received the full dose of the vaccine must be isolated for 14 days.

In the second phase to be conducted from the second quarter of 2022, foreign arrivals holding vaccine passports will not be quarantined but self-isolate for 3-7 days under the Ministry of Health’s instructions.

Those, who are without vaccine passports will perform 14-day concentrated isolation. The weekly frequency will be increased up to seven one-way flights for each airline.

This pilot phase is based on the evaluation of the results in the first phase and the disease prevention results.

The final phase will start from the third quarter of 2022, depending on the demand of passengers and the evaluation of the results of phase two and the situation of the Covid-19 prevention and control.

Sharing views about the pilot tourism plan, in its Vietnam at A Glance report released on November 4, HSBC noted while it is encouraging to see Vietnam’s first steps towards targeted re-openings, uncertainty prevails in times of pandemic, and a successful tourism revival will depend on multiple factors. 

“The first consideration is border rules. This means not only that Vietnam’s border restrictions matter, but that outbound countries’ border controls matter equally,” the report wrote.

For example, a lack of Chinese tourists implies that the expected short-term boost may be limited, as mainland China is still imposing strict border controls, with a minimum 14-day hotel quarantine, plus additional days of home quarantine/self-monitoring, depending on local rules for incoming people. 

The report underlined that how the pandemic evolves is also important. While Vietnam’s daily infections have fallen dramatically by 70% from their peak of 170,000 in mid-August, there are signs that Covid-19 is surging again. 

 Screenshot from HSBC’s Vietnam at A Glance

According to HSBC, while cases are still concentrated in the southeast region such as Dong Nai, Binh Duong, and Ho Chi Minh City, which are not included in the tourist pilot program, lingering Covid-19 risks may cultivate risk-averse sentiment for both tourists and local authorities. 

Apart from rising infections, Vietnam’s low vaccination rate is the other part of the equation. With  22% of the population fully vaccinated and still lagging behind regional peers, the country has ramped up its vaccination pace for three quarters now, prioritizing key tourist destinations and industrial hubs. That said, how to facilitate domestic movements while limiting potential virus risks between these areas and the rest of the country remains to be determined. 

Solutions for tourism reactivation

In the latest move, the Private Sector Development Research Board (IV Board) proposed solutions to restart safe tourism based on the experience of some countries in the world, which include a dialogue chaired by the Prime Minister to devise a roadmap to resume inbound and outbound tourism.

According to the IV Board, it is very important to have a feasible but flexible plan and clear processes and responsibilities of the stakeholders to create smooth coordination and minimize risks.

“The plan needs to promote the role of the business sector to make the opening process feasible, safe and effective,” the IV Board said.

The Board also proposed the Prime Minister consider building a medium and long-term loan program within the framework of the economic recovery support package for 2022-2023 for hotel, aviation, tourism, and service businesses. 

The businesses in the industries have been heavily affected by the pandemic over a year and a half and cash flow was the biggest difficulty for them, according to the proposal.

“With the current limited resources, it will be very difficult for tourism businesses and tourism services to recover and breakthrough without more timely support from the Government,” the Board emphasized. “It is to gradually create a feasible plan for the recovery of the tourism industry in the coming time.”

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