31st Sea Games - Vietnam 2021 Covid-19 Pandemic
Mar 12, 2021 / 09:41

Vaccine Passport still a question to Vietnam tourism

Experts have said that Vietnam should open its door for vaccinated foreign travelers at the same time as Thailand (on July 1) or even earlier.

Vaccine Passport, a new term implying that tourists who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 can freely travel worldwide, has entertained hopes of recovering local tourism, the sector has been hit hard – maybe hardest of all – by the Covid-19 pandemic in Vietnam.

Topas Ecolodge Resort - a favorite travel destination of foreign tourists in the North of Vietnam. Photo: Booking.com  

Is Vietnam ready to open for international tourists in July?

Pham Ha, Chairman of Lux Group, told The Hanoi Times that his business and other local tour operators are now waiting for an announcement from the government regarding the resumption of international tourism. He hopes that Vietnam would open up for travel in the third or fourth quarter this year.

“Many countries around the world have already successfully implemented the “travel bubble”, which does away with quarantine period for a select group of travelers from certain countries where the coronavirus has been contained. Thus, the application “Vaccine Passport” should not be further postponed,” Ha said.

Ha suggested that conforming to enhance the measure of pandemic prevention, local tour operators should consider transferring their clients directly from airports to resorts or cruises to minimize risk during land transportation.

Vietnam should consider opening to international visitors to Nha Trang or Danang- the favorite destinations for EU and Russian travelers since they have the habit of taking a long vacation in a single place. Thus, the “Vaccine Passport” is especially suitable for this group of clients.

If this great opportunity is missed, it will make it even harder for local travel agencies in Vietnam to compete with Thailand's booming tourism.

“Vietnam should open its door for vaccinated foreign travelers at the same time as Thailand (on July 1) or even earlier,” Ha said.

The Topas Ecolodge Resort - Sapa Town, Lao Cai province. Photo: Booking.com 

Speaking at a recent seminar organized by the Vietnam Tourism Association in Hanoi, Chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association Nguyen Huu Tho emphasized that Vietnam needs to open up for international tourists in July. 

“What is Vietnam tourism waiting for?” Tho raised the question to relevant authorities and partakers. According to him, local tour operators, especially those who capitalize on the international market have been faced with multiple difficulties during the past year, as 95% of them were forced to suspend their businesses.

“The revenue gained from domestic tourism is not enough to save the entire tourism industry. Additionally, a lot of tourism products are not suitable for the locals. Thus, setting up a roadmap to open up for international travelers is the only solution,” Tho said.

Commenting that the decision of opening up the international market may face disagreement from the majority, Vu The Binh, the Standing Vice Chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association, stated that Vietnam should resume inbound tourism as soon as possible, otherwise, it will be “left behind”.

The Son Tra Penninsula in Danang. Photo: InterContinental Sun Peninsula Da Nang Resort

“The winners are always the smartest, if we don’t utilize the “Vaccine Passport” while the whole world does, we will be playing a losing game,” he stressed.

As Binh said, the association will submit to the Government a plan to resume inbound tourism very soon in the coming time.

According to a statement made on March 2, Thailand's Prime Minister said that the country is considering the idea of a “Vaccine Passport” which will be applied to international tourists. “Only so, Thai tourism can be able to catch up with other countries,” he emphasized.

Once Thai’s proposal is approved by WHO, it may open up a new solution for citizen’s traveling demand during this Covid time.

According to the authorities of Thailand, once the “Vaccine Passport” is accepted, the country would attract at least five million foreign visitors in 2021.

Additionally, the US, UK and EU countries are considering a “Digital Vaccine Passport” to certify visitors who have already been administered the Covid-19 vaccine. China is considering offering the “Vaccine Passport” to its citizen shortly. Residents from Israel, a country in the Middle East, have already been certificated with “QR Code Vaccine Passports”.   

 The sunshine coastal city of Nha Trang. Photo: Eastin Grand Hotel Nha Trang

The conflict

However, there appears to be a conflict in the view regarding “Vaccine Passport” between health professionals and travel policymakers.

The initiative has been met with criticism from doctors and human rights organizations, who question the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Until recently, “Vaccine Passport” has not been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO believes that it is not yet the right time to accept the “Vaccine Passport” since there are still many unknowns regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine. Furthermore, the vaccine supply is still thin.

Meanwhile, the official website of Vietnam’s Ministry of Health has just cited a local article mentioning this issue.

As to the article quoted an affirmation of Associate Professor, Dr. Tran Dac Phu, Senior Advisor of the Vietnam public health emergency operations centre (EOC): There is no regulation regarding “Vaccine Passport” in Vietnam, and a 14-day quarantine requirement for foreign arrivals is mandatory.

According to Dr. Phu, vaccines are effective against many dangerous diseases such as cholera, lymphadenitis, and “yellow fever”. However, Covid-19 is a newly discovered virus and thus more time is needed to develop an effective cure.

Statistically, Vietnam requires between 100-150 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to achieve community immunity (with about 60% or 70% of the population vaccinated).

As stated by Phu, people cannot be immune immediately after vaccination. The time during which antiviral antibodies persist in the human body after vaccination is not measured yet.

Some Covid-19 vaccines are effective in neutralizing symptoms of the disease and minimizing loss of life, but the effectiveness of reducing transmission has not been accurately determined. In addition, the vaccine may not work with other variants of the same kind.

This means that people who have been vaccinated are still likely to be infected with other SARS-CoV-2 variants in the future. "Not to mention, there is a possibility of fake vaccine passport, he added.

In conclusion, the question “When should Vietnam open an international tourism market and how to keep the country safe in a new normal stage?” is still left unanswered.