Foreign travelers in doubt, though 7-day quarantine requirement has been removed
From November 2021, foreign travelers to Phu Quoc, Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang and Quang Ninh, if testing negative for the coronavirus, will be able to take package tours and not be required to have a 7-day quarantine.
Foreign travelers to Vietnam won't have to have a 7-day quarantine
However, travel firms say the regulation may be good for travelers who stay in Vietnam for less than one week, but is not feasible for travelers from Russia and English-speaking markets.
No quarantine required, but closed tours required
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) has submitted to the Prime Minister a draft of temporary guidance on receiving foreign travelers on a trial basis.
Foreign travelers would participate in tourism programs designed for areas and service facilities allowed by local authorities. The maximum duration would be 90 days.
The draft document comprises two new points, which are believed to be more ‘open’ than previously. The travelers with negative testing certificates won’t have to spend a 7-day quarantine after entry. Also, the regulation on the limit of the number of travelers has been removed.
Earlier, Phu Quoc Investment Tourism Development Association (PITDA) proposed that Kien Giang province should not set a limit on number of travelers at 3,000-5,000 in Phase 1 and 5,000-10,000 in Phase 2.
Under the proposal, travel firms would have to organize chartered flights to destinations, while other cities and provinces would not restrict numbers of travelers to receive each month. The restriction by Kien Giang would make business conditions in Phu Quoc less competitive than in other destinations. As such, Phu Quoc’s target for receiving foreign travelers will be unrealistic.
Foreign travelers who register for less-than-7-day tours would be able to participate in activities in package tours immediately in accordance with registered plans, without having to quarantine at accommodation facilities.
They would not be allowed to leave their groups and go out of the areas arranged for the groups of tourists. They must restrict close contacts with members of other groups and monitor their health conditions.
As for travelers who register for more-than-7-day tours, if they receive negative testing results on the seventh day, they would be able to travel to other localities allowed to receive tourists. But they will still follow closed package tours.
A representative of Anex Vietnam, specializing in serving Russian travelers, said that with this regulation, Vietnam can attract a certain amount of travelers who stay in Vietnam for 3-5 days. However, it would be difficult to receive Russian and English speaking travelers.
He said European travelers tend to stay a long time (about 14 nights). Though they don’t have to stay at accommodation facilities for quarantine for 7 days, they can only follow closed tours, and cannot communicate with locals, learn about local culture and history, or sightsee in destinations.
Awaiting full reopening
The participants attending a recent webinar all said that it is difficult to attract Chinese and Russian travelers at this time. China and Russia are large markets for Vietnam.
China is applying a policy which imposes tight control to prevent infections and has still kept border gates closed. So there are not many Chinese traveling abroad.
As for Russia, the situation is very serious. The country is no longer listed among the markets with low risks of Covid. As many Russians reportedly don’t have confidence in vaccinations, only 34 percent of the Russian population have got vaccinated so far. Many Russians cannot satisfy the requirements set by Vietnam and other countries if they want to travel by air.
Anex Vietnam said before the Covid-19 outbreak, the firm received more than 30,000 Russian travelers. The travelers stayed in Vietnam for 12-14 days, or 3-4 times longer than South Koreans. When Vietnam began planning to receive foreign travelers, it hoped it could receive 3,000-5,000 travelers in the first two weeks.
However, he expressed his disappointment as there are no travelers, though it is easy to organize flights and the sale system is ready.
“There are 300-400 seats on an aircraft. If only 20-30 percent of seats are booked, we will take a loss, so we cannot fly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vietnam has to compete with many other destinations. If Russian and European travelers just want to go to the beach, they can choose Dubai, Dominica or South Africa. It takes only 5-6 hours to fly to the destinations, while it takes 9-10 hours to fly to Vietnam.
The requirements at the destinations are more open than Vietnam (they just need to show negative testing results), and they don’t have to quarantine and can travel freely.
He believes that only when Vietnam fully reopens its market to foreign travelers, slated for Q2 2022, will the company be able to receive many Russian travelers.
As for Vietnam’s international tourism recovery, the managers of some travel firms predict that the figure will be 30-40 percent by 2022, and 70 percent by 2025 if compared with 2019, before the Covid-19 broke out.
Under a draft guidance on receiving foreign travelers on a trial basis, the roadmap would be implemented in three phases.
Phase 1: From November 2021. Vietnam would receive foreign travelers who come in package tours, through chartered flights and international commercial flights to areas chosen in Phu Quoc City, Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang and Quang Ninh.
Phase 2: From January 2022. Vietnam would open the doors more widely to receive foreign travelers, connecting destinations through chartered flights and routine commercial flights.
Travelers would book tourism programs with many destinations after finishing the program at the first destination within seven days (Kien Giang, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Quang Nam and Quang Ninh in the immediate time) and possibly other locations if meeting requirements.
Phase 3: Vietnam would fully reopen to foreign travelers. The time for this would be determined based on the real situation and the review of receiving foreign travelers in Phase 1 and Phase 2. It’s expected that Vietnam would reopen fully to foreign travelers in the second quarter of 2022.
Foreign holidaymakers who have been fully vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 at least six months and undergone a negative COVID-19 test are allowed to visit a number of major tourist attractions in Vietnam on a trial basis.
Phu Quoc island in southern Kien Giang province is set to receive first charter flights from November 20 this year to bring foreign travelers with a vaccine passport to the resort city under a pilot scheme recently approved by the Prime Minister.