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Apr 22, 2021 / 15:55

Vietnam needs concrete regulations to reopen borders for tourism recovery

‘Vaccine passport’ is seen as an effective strategy to recover international tourism service, however it’s needed to balance the benefit on the nation and how it affects to human.

Lack of concrete regulations is hampering Vietnam from reopening its borders to foreign tourists despite the country has successfully contained the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

 Medical examination for passengers at Noi Ba international airport. Photos: Pham Hung

The comment was released by Tran Trong Kien, Chairman of the National Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), when the country’s tourism sector is seen sluggish while some countries, including Thailand, are pushing ahead either with real vaccine passport or allowing vaccinated visitors to skip quarantine.

Kien told Hanoitimes that the state management agencies need to set up a roadmap and criteria to receive international guests as well as building standards on Covid-19 vaccination and examination before flights and after entering Vietnam.

He said Maldives has successfully reopened its door to travel, making a fruitful tourism season. In this nation of islands, visitors are required to book air tickets and make test of PCR 72 hours before departure.

“The reopening of borders to international travel and tourism will not only need efforts from business community, but also require policymakers to build concrete regulations – an essential move for businesses,” Kien said.

Insiders have said that the global economy has declined in 2020, but the Vietnam’s economy still grew 2.4% thanks to its successful control of Covid-19 pandemic. The country’s growth rate is predicted to reach 6.5% this year – this figure has lured foreign firms to travel the country while seeking opportunities to develop business.

Many travel agencies have recently organized programs to bring foreign investors and experts to the country under the form of charter flight, an unscheduled flight that is not part of a regular airline routing, in which people rent the entire aircraft and can determine departure/arrival locations and times.

Vietravel has rented the whole flight KE 683 of Korean Air to carry leading experts and senior managers from the UK, Sweden, Poland, German, Canada, the US and Spain to Vietnam. Meanwhile, the WorldTrans has brought Oversea Vietnamese businesspeople from Dallas, a city in the US state of Texas.

Some other companies, including Viet Foot Travel, Flamingo Redtour and Sun Smile Travel, have recently offered a package of tourism products targeting mainland China and its Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Director of Viet Foot Travel Pham Duy Nghia told Hanoitimes that in comparison with the organization of domestic tours, bringing foreign experts into Vietnam makes higher profit.

He said in 2019, the tourism industry accounted for 12% of the country's GDP, in which the volume of international visitors stood at only 17% but occupied over 50% of revenue – thanks to the fact that each foreign visitor spent US$673 on average while domestic visitor only $61.

“A foreign expert entering Vietnam helps the country make a profit ten times higher than that of domestic one. The source of foreign visitors will save the tourism businesses when the Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet,” Nghia said.

General Director of Flamingo Redtours Travel Company Nguyen Cong Hoan said although travel companies have set up scenarios to receive international tourists after the Covid-19 pandemic is controlled, what these businesses need most right now is a set of standards guiding businesses to welcome international visitors and ensuring safety, but not too strict “because if visitors are not comfortable, they do not want to come to Vietnam,” Hoan said.

 International guests make check-in proceedures at Noi Bai international airport in Hanoi.

‘Vaccine passport’ – an effective strategy?

Vietnam is carefully studying ‘vaccine passport’ – a strategy has been seen as the most effective way to recover international tourism service in many countries over the world.

According to Deputy Minister of Health Truong Quoc Cuong, the issue of ‘vaccine passport’ has been discussed by policymakers but decision has not been given “because we need to balance the benefit on the nation and how it affects to human.”

“The benefit is to open door to economic growth while the risk is that we might still get infected in the community. This is not a simple issue so we must take it step by step,” Cuong said.

Among the recent entries to Vietnam, a number of people has already had a ‘vaccine passport’. However, the country has not had any changes in measures of pandemic prevention and control and isolation methods to vaccinated people.

According to current regulations, people with ‘vaccine passport’, which certificates two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, still have to be isolated for 14 days and take two tests as usual.

Director of the Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health Dang Quang Tan said that the entry and exit using ‘vaccine passport’ need to have QR codes to confirm their certification of vaccination or present documents relevant to Covid-19 vaccination from the competent authority of their country or territory.

He said the pandemic in Vietnam has been well controlled, making a very low infection rate. However, the rate of vaccinated people is not high while the community immunity is low, existing the risk of infection and outbreaks when people with Covid-19 virus enter the country.

“The virus is constantly mutated, so vaccines may be ineffective or less effective against new variants. The protective effect of vaccines is also very different, ranging from 66 - 96%, so there is still risks of infection and transmission.

In addition, the duration of immunity is not so clear that it is difficult to determine the application of ‘vaccine passport’ validity.”

Tran Dac Phu, a senior advisor at the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, said Vietnam could combine the application of ‘vaccine passport’ and SARS-CoV-2 negative test result to ease the isolation period.

He said the Vietnam’s number of vaccinated people is not as high as that of many countries but it has effectively applied preventive measures. “Therefore, it is needed to continue such measures, especially 5Ks (in Vietnamese) Khau trang (facemask)- Khu khuan (disinfection) - Khoang cach (distance) – Khong tu tap (no gathering) – Khai bao y te (health declaration) to live safely with the coronavirus in the new normal.