|Most of the new arrivals thus far have come from South Korea|
Nguyen Trung Khanh, director general of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), called November 20 a historic day for the country's tourism industry, as a flight carrying 204 South Korean tourists landed on Phu Quoc Island.
Khanh said, "The flight to Phu Quoc today was our official launch of Vietnam's vaccine passport pilot programme, marking an advance in the country's efforts to revive its tourism industry while reopening and developing the economy step by step. I believe that our full compliance with COVID-19 prevention measures, together with high-quality tourism products, will reaffirm Vietnam's attractiveness and ability to meet high-class tourism demand."
Phu Quoc was the first destination in Vietnam allowed by the government to welcome international tourists with vaccine passports. The model was then quickly replicated for Quang Ninh, Danang, Quang Nam, and Khanh Hoa.
The South Korean delegation to Phu Quoc was not the first foreign delegation to Vietnam after the provinces were accepted to invite tourists from outside the border. On November 11, two flights carrying 222 tourists from Incheon Airport in South Korea and 207 tourists from Narita Airport in Japan landed at Cam Ranh Airport in Khanh Hoa province.
On November 17 and 19, two flights carrying nearly 80 passengers from South Korea, the US, the UK, central Europe, Scandinavia, and Australia also departed from Incheon Airport to Danang. The tourists then moved to Hoiana Resort to start the journey to discover Hoi An. On November 25, Quang Nam province welcomed another group of more than 200 guests from South Korea.
Petter, a 69-year-old Swedish tourist to Quang Nam said he felt happy to be back after the pandemic. "I love this country so it feels like coming home. I will travel to Vietnam for eight days," he said. Petter added that he was looking forward to visiting other famous destinations such as Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, Halong, and Nha Trang in the near future.
International guests to Vietnam during this pilot phase all travel on charter flights served by Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, and Bamboo Airways. A representative of Vietnam Airlines said that passengers participating in pilot flights need to meet the conditions of having a vaccine passport, negative RT-PCR test results within 72 hours before flight, return tickets, and full medical declaration.
While Vietnam is still cautiously opening the tourism market, many countries such as Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and Australia have successfully applied bubble tours to provide a safe experience for travellers.
From November 1, Thailand has allowed tourists who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from 63 countries (including Vietnam) and territories to enter without quarantine. Singapore has also built safe routes with 13 countries as of November 15. Passengers can travel on flights between Singapore and these countries once they have been vaccinated, tested negative 48 hours in advance, and are not quarantined upon arrival. Most recently, the Cambodian government has also allowed vaccinated tourists to freely move anywhere.
Khanh of VNAT admitted that the pandemic-prevention conditions of the health sector in many places in the country are "still too cautious". Because the only current focus is on charter flights with package tours, VNAT predicts that the number of foreign visitors to Vietnam will be fewer than the actual demand.
To accelerate the recovery of this tourism market, a number of other destinations are also proposing to open their doors to international visitors. In the urgent dispatch just sent to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Ho Chi Minh City has applied for approval to pilot international tourists using vaccine passports from December, and at the same time develop a plan to welcome visitors through both charter flights and international commercial flights without requiring quarantine.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Le Thanh, director of Khanh Hoa Department of Tourism, said the province would officially welcome guests from South Korea under the vaccine passport by December.
"It is expected that by the end of the year, Khanh Hoa will welcome over 9,000 international guests on nearly 50 flights from a number of countries such as South Korea, Russia, the Philippines, Japan, and Cambodia", Thanh shared.
Phu Yen, one of the potential new tourist destinations, is also hoping to welcome international visitors in the near future. "In the coming time, the province will coordinate with VNAT and ministries and sectors to restart international flights", said Nguyen Thi Hong Thai, director of Phu Yen Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
She added that Phu Yen had required COVID-19 vaccinations for employees in the tourism industry, restaurants, and travel agencies, and is ensuring that the sector's workforce is fully vaccinated to be ready to get back to serve as soon as possible.
By Thai An
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