Early int'l flights resumption will lend wings to aviation, tourism recovery

By Hoang Phong   December 8, 2021 | 06:00 pm PT
Early int'l flights resumption will lend wings to aviation, tourism recovery
Passengers arrive at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi from South Korean capital Seoul, September 25, 2020. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Airlines
Experts and businesses support the transport ministry's proposal to reopen international flights from mid-December, saying it would help aviation and tourism recovery take off during peak travel season.

The ministry proposed Tuesday that the government allows regular international flights to resume December 15, starting with nine destinations: San Francisco or Los Angeles (the U.S.), Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Vientiane (Laos), Beijing (China), Tokyo (Japan), Seoul (South Korea), and Taipei (Taiwan).

Bui Doan Ne, general secretary of the Vietnam Aviation Business Association (VABA), said the reopening of commercial flights between Vietnam and countries with high vaccination rates and good pandemic control was necessary now as many overseas Vietnamese wished to return home to celebrate the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday.

"Reopening international routes will help the aviation and tourism industries recover soon and improve the country's international competitiveness. If Vietnam is slow in resuming international flights resumption, the country would suffer huge economic damage," he added.

Ne also said it was necessary to lift mandatory quarantine for fully vaccinated foreign passengers so that the flight resumption plan becomes more feasible.

"Reopening international flights without mandatory quarantine for foreign passengers has a scientific basis based on international experience and practices. Many countries have resumed regular flights and exempted quarantine for fully vaccinated passengers with a negative test result upon arrival," he said.

Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam on Wednesday instructed the Health Ministry to issue new guidelines to let fully vaccinated travelers isolate themselves at home or accommodation of their choice.

Currently, the Health Ministry requires fully vaccinated foreign arrivals to undergo seven-day mandatory quarantine at their own expense.

Vietnam has committed to accepting "vaccine passports" of many countries and territories where the pandemic situation is under control, and to not imposing centralized quarantine requirements on arrivals from these countries.

Economist Ngo Tri Long also supported the ministry's flight resumption proposal. With the government switching from a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy to living safely with the virus, and the country currently having a high vaccination rate, it's high time that international flights be resumed to help lift the aviation and tourism from a prolonged crisis.

The high demand of returning to the homeland among Vietnamese living abroad peaks during the Tet holiday season and it would be a good opportunity for the aviation and tourism sectors to take advantage of.

Long said aviation officials should work closely with health authorities to ensure strict surveillance measures for foreign arrivals, given the emergence of Omicron variant.

Associate Professor Pham Trung Luong, former head of the Hanoi-based Institute for Tourism Development Research, said the resumption of regular flights was a necessary condition to reopen international tourism.

Vietnamese carriers have also welcomed the ministry's proposal, saying they are ready to resume operations on international routes as soon as the government approves it.

They said allowing fully vaccinated visitors to be exempted from mandatory quarantine would help them catch up with growing travel demand during the year-end season.

Vietnam grounded international flights in March last year, allowing only its nationals, foreign experts, investors, and highly-skilled workers to enter.

After two years of border closures, Vietnam reopened its doors to foreign tourists last month. Nearly 1,000 foreign tourists have visited Quang Nam, Khanh Hoa and Kien Giang provinces since.

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