Contrary to the expectations of most tourism businesses for nearly two years, at a national conference themed on Vietnamese tourism recovery and development that took place on December 25, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam noted that international tourism will not be fully reopened, even if international flights are resumed as planned on January 1.
“Opening and closing is more dangerous than preparing and opening with certainty. It is necessary to implement effective prevention and control measures, speed up booster shots for the population, develop treatment drugs, and prevent the threat from strains of coronavirus,” Dam emphasised.
He also added that the reopening should not be too hasty. Instead, Vietnam has to continue taking firm steps like with the current pilot programme implemented in Phu Quoc, Khanh Hoa, and Quang Nam.
|A resort in Phu Quoc island (Photo:VNA) |
Hopes for a full reopening
While the government remains cautious, representatives of tourism businesses are looking forward to the reopening of the market.
Nguyen Quoc Ky, chairman at Vietravel Holdings, said that after the government approved the safe resumption of tourism and international commercial routes, businesses have immediately taken the initiative to prepare recovery plans.
Vietravel has also worked with the tourism boards of Singapore and Thailand to reconnect tourism activities for visitors from these markets on weekends, as soon as the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism allows.
“The Ministry of Health issued a new document requiring international visitors to self-quarantine at home or places of accommodation for three days upon entry into Vietnam, so all previous preparations of Vietravel must be changed,” Ky said.
Both the tourism and aviation industries have prepared to open commercial routes to welcome international guests.
At the end of December, Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, Pacific Airlines, and Bamboo Airways announced plans to reopen regular international routes from January 1.
A representative of Vietjet said that the carrier plans to operate flights between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore, and Bangkok from the beginning of January.
The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam says regular international flights will resume next month to Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Cambodia, while the US, South Korea, Laos, Thailand, and China are yet to share their plans and have suggested more discussions and exchanges. Accordingly, the first regular international flight to Japan is expected to take off on January 6, followed by the US route on January 9.
In the first phase starting from January 1, routes will be operated with one round trip per week and increase gradually according to the demand and approval of the authorities. In the next phase, Vietjet is planning to reopen all international routes that it has previously operated to other countries in the region, as well as new ones to India and Russia.
Vietnam Airlines is also preparing to resume regular international flights to 15 countries and territories in the first half of next year. From January 1, the airline is to operate two-way flights between Vietnam and the US, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. In the second phase, Vietnam Airlines will restore more two-way routes between Vietnam and the UK, France, Germany, Russia, Australia, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.
Fear OF further delays
The government had approved the resumption of regular commercial flights between Vietnam and international destinations which are deemed safe from COVID-19.
However, tourism and airline businesses may continue to face many difficulties if the time to resume international tourism activities is further delayed.
“In the past, ministries had looked to open tourism and aviation, but still delayed these plans. Now, the plan was to reopen international routes from the beginning of January, but a few days before that, the Ministry of Health just issued another document. International visitors need time for preparing for their travels. Businesses also need to prepare. With the current timidity, surely many tourism businesses will not be able to maintain operations,” Ky added.
Huynh Van Son, general director of Saigon Star JSC, said that although Phu Quoc has welcomed back international visitors since November, the number of tourists has been low.
“Every day, businesses have to deal with worries about costs and eventually run out of energy. We sincerely hope that Vietnam will not hesitate to fully reopen tourism. If there are difficulties, businesses are ready to accompany the government to solve them together,” Huynh Van Son said.
After two years, Vietnam’s tourism industry has been fractured, with the number of employees decreasing day by day. More than 90 per cent of tour operators welcoming international tourists have ceased operations. In 2021, 35 per cent of travel businesses revoked their license, and a good 90 per cent of accommodation establishments were closed as they had no guests.
Deputy general director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Ha Van Sieu, said that it is necessary to reopen and restore tourism as soon as possible. “The government has implemented various recovery programmes, but nothing is better than a full reopening to welcome international tourists. For tourism to recover, we must fully reopen,” Sieu argued.