Time to reopen Vietnam to the international tourism market
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has introduced a pilot scheme aimed at welcoming back foreign visitors to Phu Quoc island, paving the way for the country’s tourism industry to get back on track after a hiatus caused by COVID-19.
The COVID-19 outbreak that initially started in January 2020, has dealt a heavy blow to the Vietnamese tourism industry, forcing all of its foreign markets to come to a standstill.
In order secure its growth moving forward, the Political Bureau has allowed the Government to carry out a pilot scheme to reopen the Vietnamese foreign tourism market based on the vaccine passport model.
Under the Government’s direction, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has drafted a pilot scheme aimed at welcoming back vaccinated foreign visitors to Phu Quoc.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung says his Ministry has been very careful about drafting the scheme, with particular care taken to devise the tasks for COVIID-19 prevention and economic recovery.
“The safety of both residents and visitors must be given top priority,” says Minister Hung. “We do hope the scheme will bring about good results.”
Seizing upon a golden chance
Nguyen Le Phuc, deputy director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, says that welcoming the return of foreign visitors will be carried out on a small scale, with only qualified travel firms and lodging facilities being selected to serve visitors.
According to the official, the pilot scheme is hoping to attract foreign travelers to Vietnam to help to revitalise the local tourism industry and related economic and service industries, whilst also contributing to local social security. Simultaneously, it will also help to promote an image of the country as a safe and friendly attractive tourist destination globally moving into the post pandemic period.
The pilot scheme has received strong support from a large number of travel firms, many of whom say they are ready to receive international visitors.
“Obviously, people are willing to spend money travelling here and there to relax after staying indoors for months,” says Tran Dao Duc, managing director of CEO Group, “It looks like a spring that has been compressed for a long time and now expands to its fullest.”
Meanwhile, Huynh Quang Hung, chairman of the Phu Quoc City administration, affirms Phu Quoc has drawn up plans ahead of welcoming back international guests with a vaccine passport.
“The city is fully qualified to welcome visitors back as it has a total of 25,000 hotel rooms, of which 15,000 are of five-star standard. In addition, many high-class entertainment areas, urban areas, and shopping malls have also been formed, catering to the diverse taste of visitors,” says Hung.
The Ministry expects the pilot scheme to be replicated to other tourist destinations nationwide, such as Ha Long in Quang Ninh province, Hoi An in Quang Nam province, Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa province, and Da Lat in Lam Dong province, providing it proves successful in Phu Quoc.
Challenges lying ahead
Experts share the view that the national tourism industry should try to live safely with the virus as opposed to staying in limbo forever, particularly as nobody knows when the disease will finally be stamped out.
However, they believe that travel firms should make thorough preparations, ranging from surveying destinations and developing self-contained package tours to guaranteeing safety and preparing human resources.
Localities, ministries, and agencies must therefore work carefully in order to ensure the virus will not penetrate the nation from overseas, and visitors feel comfortable during their stay in the country.
“All stakeholders must be ready and united to ensure effective and safe reopening of the market for people and tourists, to affirm Vietnam as an attractive tourist destination," says Minister Hung.
Economic expert Pham Chi Lan agrees that Vietnam should reopen its international tourism market, but warns that the pilot scheme should not be implemented en mass.
“The outbreak remains complicated in various localities and the Government has yet to introduce a common policy. It’s impossible for a visitor to move from one locality to another as their COVID-19 prevention and control measures are different,” Lan analyses.
She therefore suggests that the Government should introduce a consistent policy which is generally applied to all tourist regions nationwide when it comes to the reopening of the tourism market.
“The tourism industry cannot operate when other related services do not work,” the expert points out.
She also says the application of the green card is necessary, not only for tourists, but also for experts, investors, and business people who directly bring investment capital and expertise to the country.