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International tourism has changed post-pandemic

Vietnam officially opened all regular international flights on 15 February after nearly two years of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country also plans to fully reopen tourism activities from 15 March, which shows a positive move towards the recovery of both domestic and international tourism. 

Illustrative image. – File photo 

However, the recovery of international tourism will depend on several changes in strategy.

Reopening of routes

The reopening of the flight routes is being considered by the tourism industry as a gift at the beginning of the New Year. The joy of the industry was multiplied when recently, Mr. Vu Duc Dam, Deputy Prime Minister, agreed to the proposal of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and other ministries and agencies on the complete reopening of tourism activities under new restrictive measures from 15 March.

As per the new regulations, international visitors coming to Vietnam only need to fully meet the regulations of the Ministry of Health on vaccination against Covid-19; show negative test results before boarding; follow the regulations of the country of departure; and install at least one health management application according to the regulations of Vietnamese agencies and keep it on at all times during their stay in Vietnam.

Mr. Vu Duc Dam, Deputy Prime Minister, has also directed the ministries and various sectors to agree to report to the Government for any permission from 15 March, to stop applying restrictive measures on visa issuance and implement electronic visa issuance, with unilateral and bilateral visa exemption policies. Before the pandemic, Vietnam exempted visas unilaterally for 13 countries and bilaterally for 88 countries and territories.

Ministries and relevant sectors have also agreed to the proposal of the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Tourism that international visitors to Vietnam must pay insurance premium to enjoy the insurance of US$10,000, or about US$30 per person on an average, in case they become infected with the Covid-19 virus, and have to be treated in Vietnam. This partly helps reduce the burden on businesses when tourists test positive for Covid-19 during their travel in Vietnam.

The complete reopening of tourism activities in Vietnam is a positive move. Other countries in the region have already begun to welcome international travelers. For instance, Cambodia was the first to open its borders as early as November last year. Thailand also opened its borders on 1 February and Malaysia plans to open its borders on 1 March at the earliest, to welcome travelers without quarantine. 

Situation not optimistic

The tourism industry is also expected to accelerate their plans to welcome visitors in 2022, from the beginning of the year. The tourism sector is expected to receive 65 million visitors, of which 60 million will be domestic visitors. The total revenue from tourism could reach around VND400,000 bn. There is also an optimistic view that by the end of the peak period, we could welcome a third of international visitors that arrived in 2019. The exact figures will only become clear by the end of this year. However, if we try to analyze now the situation does not seem very optimistic.

Looking back at 2019, it was the year that Vietnam considers the golden year of tourism, when it welcomed a record 18 million international visitors. Most of the visitors came from the four main markets of China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, accounting for more than 60% of the total number of visitors to Vietnam, with the Chinese market accounting for the most number of visitors. However, when Vietnam announced the reopening of regular international flights, the Civil Aviation Administration said that China had not yet agreed to their proposal, hence, this market is still restricted post pandemic.

Even though the flight routes will remain closed from and to China, the road route too is not very favorable either. So far, China still continues to implement a Zero Covid policy, and so far it is not clear for how long it will last. Therefore, Vietnam will have to wait for this very lucrative market to open, but the country can still expect visitors from Japan and South Korea, although these countries too are restricting entry of flights from Vietnam. Currently, South Korean tourists have come in a pilot phase, but the number of visitors is still very limited.

Mr. Vu Duc Dam, Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, has agreed to the proposal to fully open tourism from 15 March, but businesses still have to wait for the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and other ministries and branches to agree on welcoming international travelers. Businesses are still awaiting opening of plans and other detailed instructions. Businesses also have to wait for a specific market strategy according to the industry goals.

It is said that the number of international visitors looking for information about Vietnam has increased, but from which market do that number of tourists come from, and what policies do we have to attract them to really choose Vietnam is the question. This is not talking about products, the problem is old but the situation is new, especially in the post-pandemic period.

Mr. Dang Manh Phuoc, Director of Outbox Consulting, a research and development consulting company for tourism destinations, assessed that after the pandemic, all countries are at the starting line in the journey to welcome international tourists back will be the gainers. The country that starts early and has a good strategy will finish early.

In terms of time, we are not late, but we still need a more specific strategy. After the long phase of Covid-19 pandemic, everything is no longer the same, especially in terms of psychology and the needs of tourists. Requirements and demands of travelers have changed a lot post pandemic, and therefore with many things different we need to take a different approach.

Source: Sai Gon Giai Phong

Tourism reopening expected by mid-March

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