Almost two years after the border was closed, the Vietnamese tourism industry is ready to welcome foreign tourists again from next month.
In an effort to accelerate the economic recovery and revitalize the tourism sector, the Vietnamese government decided last week to fully reopen its borders to foreign tourists from March 15, about three months ahead of schedule.
Domestic airlines were allowed to resume regular international flights on Monday. Restrictions on flight frequency, quarantine and test requirements were abolished or relaxed. Tourists now only need a certificate with a negative COVID-19 test result (test taken within 24 hours before arrival in case of rapid test, or 72 hours in case of RT-PCR test).
This policy is in line with other Southeast Asian countries that plan to fully reopen their borders.
According to Đinh Việt Thắng, general manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, now is a good time to open, as it will not only allow airlines to restore and reuse their existing capacity, but also give them the opportunity to access new markets at a time when not all international airlines have resumed their full service.
“If we are slow at this stage and wait a few more months for when airlines restore their routes at the same time, it will be very difficult for latecomers,” Thắng said.
Last week, Thai tourism companies called on the government to declare COVID-19 an endemic disease and fully reopen the country to international tourists by lifting all restrictions from next month over fears the country will otherwise be unable to compete with other countries in the region.
On February 1, the Thai government resumed its Test & Go program, allowing foreign tourists to visit the country without quarantine as long as they pass a negative COVID test on the first and fifth days of their trip.
On February 10, the Philippines opened their borders to vaccinated tourists and business travelers, with no quarantine obligation.
Other countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, are also considering re-opening the border after a pause due to the Omicron outbreak.
April used to be a busy time for the Asian tourism industry as western tourists usually like to travel to Asia during the Easter holidays. Around the world, several countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom, have canceled almost all of their COVID restrictions.
According to experts, if Asian countries reopen their doors too late, international tourists may lose interest in the region and move to other destinations.
“Vietnam is one of the countries in Southeast Asia that has opened the border quite early and this is a golden opportunity for our tourism industry,” Lê Hồng Thái, deputy director of Hanoi Tourist, told Vietnam News.
“It cannot be said that we will have tourists right after we open the border and the number of visitors could be the same and even more than before the pandemic broke out in 2019. However, if we have good preparation and promotion, I think in a short time, maybe one or two years, it will be possible for the tourism industry to recover to almost the level of 2019,” said Thái.
Companies are ready
Foreign tourists in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam
Hanoi Tourist has prepared for this opportunity. The company will develop new tourism products in the new period to meet the changing demands of customers.
“Our new tourist products are completely different from the old ones. They are closely linked to health regulations related to pandemic safety and prevention,” said Thái, adding that the company had developed a safety-critical process to serve tourists, including what to do if travelers have COVID-19 symptoms.
Vietravel also has plans in place to welcome international tourists in 2022. It has completed product sets in accordance with the requirements of the pilot program to welcome international tourists and customer demand from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, America and Europe. The company strengthens marketing campaigns to partners and customers in these markets.
“In the new normal situation, we need to be more flexible and innovative,” said the company’s representative, focusing on increasing safety by adopting safety standards and procedures suitable for each destination, and seeking, research and launch new product ranges.
This year’s tourism product requires connectivity in the green zone that meets “5 green” criteria, including green passports, green businesses (full vaccination personnel), green corridors, green destinations and green services, the company said.
Five-star hotels are also ready.
Anthony Slewka, Director of Sales and Marketing at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel, said the hotel would aggressively ramp up room service, food and beverage services and staff to meet rising demand.
He predicted that business travelers would likely come in soon, but that some habits would change, such as the growth of software packages for communicating online. Meanwhile, it would take quite a few weeks for vacationers to return, as it would not only be about entry to Vietnam, but also about entry to their country, flight costs, flight availability and so on.
“Our expectation is that by the fourth quarter, essentially in October, November, we’ll have about 30 to 40 percent of what we think is normal in a very busy normal year, about 30 to 40 percent, if we’re feeling good.” , he said.
In HCM City, the city’s Ministry of Tourism has just announced 13 3- to 5-star hotels and two international travel agencies as eligible to welcome international guests under the pilot program to welcome foreign tourists to the city.
Hotels such as Grand Saigon, Rex Saigon, Continental and Majestic are now ready from the stages of safety standards, facilities and human resources to welcome international guests.
Airlines such as Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet and Bamboo have restored all international routes to Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States as usual.
Bamboo CEO Đặng Tất Thắng said one advantage of the opening at the moment was that the airline could get a slot on a good flight time that it couldn’t get before.
“The opening at the moment is very accurate and will help Vietnam gain a lot of advantages over other countries in the region,” Thắng said.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s two-stage recovery plan for tourism between 2022 and 2024, the sector is expected to attract about 8-9 million international tourists, corresponding to 45-50 percent of the figure recorded in 2019. and 65-70 million domestic arrivals, equivalent to 75-80 percent of the 2019 figure from 2022 to 2023. Total travel revenues are estimated to reach 400-450 trillion UN (US$17-$19.6 billion), or 50 percent of the pre-pandemic figure.
In the second phase from 2024 to 2026, the sector will serve some 16 million international tourists and about 80 million domestic tourists by 2025, with a total expected turnover of 780 trillion UN.
By Mai Huong @ VNS. This article was first posted on Vietnam News