The government decided to fully reopen the tourism market from March 15. However, travel firms are still awaiting a legal document that guides the reopening. Because a document has not been released, they still cannot design and sell tours to foreign travelers.
Travel firms fear that if ministries set overly strict requirements on foreign travelers, Vietnam will not be able to compete with neighboring countries in attracting tourists, such as Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia.
Ha Duc Manh, CEO of Amica Travel, which specializes in serving French tourists, said: “One must not entertain the illusion that foreign travelers are standing at the door of our house and will flock to the house once we open the door.”
“In reality, after the decision on tourism opening from March 15, we have to clearly explain to them how Vietnam opens the door, and which advantages we have. We also have to attract foreign travelers by running media campaigns and offering attractive products,” he said.
Manh revealed that some loyal French clients have contacted him about the tours in April and May, and others want to know about June and July.
“However, they have just asked information, and they have not made a deal. There are still no specific regulations to explain to them,” he said, adding that only long after March 15 will travel firms be able to receive larger numbers of international tourists.
Since implementing the pilot program for foreign travelers in November 2021, Anex Vietnam has served 4,000 Russian travelers to Khanh Hoa. However, Bui Quoc Dai of the firm thinks that there won’t be many foreign travelers coming to Vietnam after March 15.
He said that his firm would receive a group of tourists from Russia on March 17. However, tourism products are still designed based on regulations applied to the pilot program. This means that travelers have to stay in resorts for the first three days and only participate in tourism activities after they have negative testing results.
Dai warned that if the requirement is not removed, tourism firms will lose mid-end clients, because the expenses on the first three days in resorts account for up to 50 percent of total expenses for the whole trip.
If Vietnam loses these clients, chartered flights won’t fill up, which will lead to higher tour fees.
Dai said that the requirement of 72-hour quarantine and regular testing is unsuitable to Southeast Asian and Asian markets.
“Travelers from regional countries only stay in Vietnam for a few days. They will not accept staying in resorts for 72 hours,” he explained.
|Many travel firms say that their inbound tours remain unsold as ministries and branches are still discussing tourism reopening solutions.
Meanwhile, regulations applied by Thailand are more flexible. Since March 1, travelers to Thailand under the Test & Go program only have to wait for PCR testing results on the first day at hotels or cruises. Other regional countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia are also very open.
Other travel firms complained about vaccination certificates. The certificates for full vaccinations have validity of six months in Vietnam, while the validity in European countries is nine months.
“Travel firms have been hit hard over the last two years by Covid-19. If Vietnam doesn’t have a reasonable reopening policy, we will miss the golden opportunity to save the ‘non-smoke industry’,” he said.
“I am afraid that if we still require quarantine and regular testing and localities still set high requirements, we won’t be able to attract tourists,” said Bui Bang Giang, CEO of Asia Exotica.
Giant said that one of the big difficulties in attracting foreign travelers back to Vietnam is the lack of flights.
Previously, Spanish and Portuguese travelers could fly to Vietnam with daily flights provided by large air carriers such as Qatar, Emirates, Turkish, Vietnam Airlines, Thai Airway and Cathay Pacific. Few airlines have reopened air routes with Vietnam.
The Russia-Ukraine war has had a direct impact on Anex Vietnam. According to Dai, the number of flights carrying Russian travelers to Vietnam has decreased by 25 percent, from eight to six flights a month.
Travel firms also complain that they have difficulties in ordering services with partners (hotels, resorts and restaurants). The service providers have been hit hard by the pandemic and lack workers.
“A lot of my partners have shut down their business and some CEOs have shifted to other business. Some service providers still maintain operation, but they need more time to recruit workers, train workers and improve facilities,” she explained.
“However, in current conditions, they dare not make big investments as they are not sure if they will have clients,” Manh from Amica Travel said.
Ngo Van Thoa, CEO of Pan American Travel, said the procedures to travel Dubai are very simple: visas can be obtained within 48 hours and it takes only 40 minutes for entry.
“We had a group of tourists entering Dubai on March 4. Tourists just needed to show certificates of full vaccination, and did not have to show PCR testing results,” he said.
The Government has decided to fully reopen the tourism market from March 15. However, travel firms fear that foreign travelers won’t visit the country because of complicated procedures for entry visas.
The Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Sports has expressed its disagreements with some proposed COVID-19 related guidance that it considers cumbersome.