Government urged to open door to foreign travelers

Vietnam needs to design a roadmap for opening the market to receive foreign travelers or it will fail to develop tourism as other countries have taken one step forward.

Government urged to open door to foreign travelers

At a recent meeting with the National Steering Committee on Covid-19 Prevention and Control, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked relevant ministries and branches to consider gradually re-opening international air routes and prepare measures to apply a "vaccine passport" and control of trade.

The PM said he had received a proposal from the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB). Hoang Nhan Chinh from TAB’s Secretariat said TAB supported the government’s policy on not sacrificing the health of Vietnamese people for economic benefits, saying that the border reopening needs to be safe and sustainable.

Vietnam will only open the door to foreign travelers when it feels secure about the safety of the sites that will receive guests and the places from which travelers depart.

However, TAB believes that it would be better to prepare for the opening soon because of the importance of the tourism industry, which makes up 9.2 percent of GDP. The industry has created 4.5 million jobs, including 2.2 million direct jobs and brings revenue of $30 billion.

As Covid-19 vaccination is being implemented on a large scale, other countries which are Vietnam’s rivals are getting ready to receive guests. Singapore and Thailand, for example, have taken a step forward in preparing for the opening.

Vietnam’s domestic travel has been developing well in recent months, but domestic travel alone won’t be able to recover the tourism industry. The revenue from foreign travelers is $18.3 billion, even though the number of travelers is just 1/5 of the total number of travelers. Meanwhile, 85 million domestic travelers represent $14.5 billion.

One foreign traveler spends $1,000 on average in Vietnam, while one Vietnamese traveler spends $170.

It will be impossible to revive inbound tourism if Vietnam cannot revive domestic travel. This means that receiving foreign travelers is No 2 in priority order. However, Vietnam still needs to prepare for foreign travelers soon.

Singapore has not officially opened to foreign travelers yet, but it began designing the plan and roadmap for receiving foreign travelers last December. This means that it it will be able to implement the plan immediately when there are favorable conditions.

Vietnam needs to design a roadmap for opening the market to receive foreign travelers or it will fail to develop tourism as other countries have taken one step forward.

TAB believes that Vietnam needs to think of solutions that both ensure the safety and avoid the spread of coronavirus to the community, and traveling without required quarantine. Chinh said that people will not travel if they have to spend 14 days in quaratine.

TAB has suggested setting up a group of experts with members from the Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs, Transport, National Defence and Finance.

The group will consider safety criteria to find which countries can meet the requirements. Vietnam should only conduct bilateral negotiations on opening the door to foreign travelers from certain countries. The policy is being applied by Singapore.

 

Chinh said that foreign travelers to Vietnam have to follow required procedures, under which a vaccine passport or certificate on vaccination is compulsory. A PCR test before flights and quick testing at airports on arrival should also be required.

Chinh himself and TAB believe that vaccinations are not the only and safest measure, and that a lot of comprehensive measures need to be taken to ensure safety.

In addition, Vietnam should think of requiring travelers to take medical insurance policies, including Covid-19 insurance to ensure travelers’ benefits and safety if flights are canceled or postponed, or travelers have to receive medical treatment or return to home countries.

Insurance companies in Vietnam should be allowed to develop these insurance policies to sell to travelers.

It is also necessary to build a procedure for receiving and serving travelers during the pandemic.

According to Chinh, there are three scenarios for market re-opening. With the optimistic scenario, Vietnam would open the door in the second quarter, but Chinh doesn’t think this will happen.

Vietnam would open the door in the third quarter under the middle scenario and in the fourth quarter or early 2022 in the worst-case scenario.

There are two groups of markets for Vietnam, including near and far markets.The former includes China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and ASEAN countries, where people travel all year round. If Vietnam opens its market to these countries, it will be able to receive guests, if the countries can control Covid.

Meanwhile, from October to April, Vietnam may try to attract travelers from far markets.

However, Chinh stressed that the opening will still depend on vaccinations in Vietnam and source markets, as well as agreements among relevant ministries and branches.

In 2020, Vietnam received only 3.8 million foreign travellers, a decrease of 78.7 percent compared with the year before, which was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO). 

Ngoc Ha

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