By Mai Hương
HÀ NỘI — From airlines to travel companies, Việt Nam's tourism industry is hoping to get the green light to resume international commercial flights, starting in November. However, the complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world will require a vigilant re-opening plan.
The Civil Aviation Authority in mid-October proposed the Ministry of Transport launch pilot flights carrying foreign tourists to some destinations in Việt Nam, starting later this year. This is part of the authority's efforts to reboot the tourism sector and recover the economy.
Popular destinations for foreign visitors such as Phú Quốc, Khánh Hòa, Quảng Nam, Đà Nẵng and Quảng Ninh will be allowed to welcome foreign tourists from November.
"This is a rational proposal to save the airlines and the tourism industry because they are the hardest hit by the pandemic in the past two years," Trịnh Thị Mỹ Nghệ, Vice-chairwoman of the Hà Nội Travel and Tourism Association, told Việt Nam News .
The selected destinations have tourist sources from China, South Korea, Russia and Australia which are doing well in pandemic prevention, Nghệ said.
To allure foreign tourists the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has proposed that foreigners will not have to quarantine, providing they test negative for COVID-19 as soon as they arrive in Việt Nam.
If approved, this will help Việt Nam compete with other countries such as Thailand and Singapore, who are also in the process of opening their doors to foreign tourists.
Thailand will start receiving vaccinated foreign arrivals without quarantine from November 1.
Vietnam Airlines is still offering commercial flights departing from Việt Nam to some countries but has yet to operate any international flights, except those that serve the State's purposes and carry Vietnamese citizens home.
"If Việt Nam does not reopen international air routes soon, it will miss opportunities to attract visitors because neighbouring countries resumed international flights and even don't require visitors to be fully vaccinated. They just ask for negative PCR tests," a representative from Vietnam Airlines said.
Although the tourism industry can't wait to receive foreign arrivals soon, market insiders have warned the opening must be rolled out in line with the pandemic's developments. Safety protocols must be ensured.
"Regulations on quarantine and health guidelines are still essential," Nghệ said, noting if Việt Nam receives tourists en masse and disease resurges, it will be very hard to control.
World health experts still predict another outbreak of COVID-19 by the end of this year. Many countries in recent days have reported a surge in COVID-19 infections, including China, Singapore, South Korea and some EU states.
Despite a high vaccination rate, Singapore on Thursday said it was looking into an ‘unusual surge’ of 5,324 new infections of COVID-19, the highest figure since the beginning of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, China is making all-out efforts to contain the disease spreading that has affected 11 provinces across the country.
"Easing pandemic prevention regulations need to be updated regularly. Pandemic prevention is still the top priority of Việt Nam," Nghệ said.
Under the pilot programme for foreign visitors, visitors need to have a certificate showing they were fully vaccinated at least 14 days, and no longer than 12 months, before arrival.
All tourists must show a negative COVID certificate using the PCR method within 72 hours before departure and are required to book a tour package through designated travel agencies.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is temporarily recognising ‘vaccine passports’ of 72 countries and territories, and is in discussions with nearly 80 others on mutual recognition for the ‘vaccine passport’.
Some localities such as Đà Nẵng, Khánh Hòa and Phú Quốc have proposed pilot plans of receiving foreign tourists in November. Travel agencies are also ready. However, the tourism industry does not forecast a major recovery until next year.
According to Vietravel, recovery in the aviation and tourism industries is expected to be slow in the last quarter of this year as tourists will remain cautious with the disease developments and control measures.
"Currently, the implementation is still quite conservative with different vaccination rates among localities," a Vietravel’s representative told Việt Nam News .
Tourism covers many aspects of the economy and so if tourism is to recover, related sectors such as transportation, accommodation, entertainment services and shops in each locality must be synchronised in their approach.
Vietravel said the demand for tourism and aviation in the domestic market will increase rapidly at the end of December and the first period of Q1/2022 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 travelling abroad is large. However, the opening will be very cautious, so the recovery speed will be quite slow in the early period," the company said.
Việt Nam plans to welcome international visitors from November this year. The first phase starts only for those using ‘combo packages’ (airline ticket, COVID-19 testing fee, food and stay at a hotel for quarantine, with visits to select destinations).
The second phase starting from next year expects to see more international air routes and more destinations re-open.
In the third phase, full re-opening will be decided based on the pandemic development and the results of the two previous phases. — VNS
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