Long wait over, Vietnam tourism workers relieved, revived

By Trung Nghia, Huynh Nhi   March 16, 2022 | 04:40 pm PT
Long wait over, Vietnam tourism workers relieved, revived
Staff of a bar on Bui Vien pedestrian streets wave to customers, March 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi
Many tourism workers feel a sense of relief and revival as Vietnam opened international tourism Tuesday with relaxed entry rules after a long pandemic-induced hiatus.

Luong Minh Tu, staff of GO2 bar on the Bui Vien pedestrian street in HCMC, said he and his colleagues were feeling "as happy as if Tet was coming near," which is a way of saying among Vietnamese to describe the biggest of joy.

Before the pandemic, Bui Vien, home to a wide array of bars, dance clubs, karaoke parlors and restaurants, used to be the city's busiest night-time hotspot for foreign tourists and locals.

Tu said his bar reopened in January after being closed for a long time. He hoped that the reopening of international tourism would help Bui Vien regain its pre-pandemic vibrancy so that tourism-reliant workers like him can earn more after suffering financial constraints for a long time.

Vietnam fully reopened its borders on Tuesday after nearly two years of closure.

The Ministry of Health said Wednesday that foreigners entering Vietnam only need to be test negative for Covid-19 and do not have to quarantine themselves.

They are required to present a negative Covid test result using the RT-PCR method within 72 hours before arrival, or 24 hours via rapid antigen tests.

Those who cannot take a test before arrival will have to be tested within 24 hours after entry. They can leave their accommodations after show negative test results.

Le Thi Thu Huong, sales director of the Hanoi-based tour operator GP Travel, said the reopening of tourism with relaxed entry policies was good news.

Tourism workers have been waiting for this moment for the past two years, she said.

"The number of international tourists to Vietnam will remain low after the official reopening because European tourists need at least a few months to plan their trips.

"With quarantine exemption, I believe foreign tourists will return to Vietnam soon, starting in the second quarter," she said.

JP Klovstad, a Norwegian who works as a tour guide for Albatros Travel, a Danish company specializing in bringing Norwegian tourists to Vietnam and Southeast Asia, was over the moon.

"March 15 is a milestone that has revived me. I will return to Norway for a while and then return to Vietnam because I like the bustling traffic scene, delicious but cheap snacks and friendly people," he said.

Vietnam has also resumed its unilateral visa exemption policy for citizens from 13 countries, including several European economies, Japan and South Korea.

The country had closed inbound tourism and stopped granting visas to foreigners in March 2020. It partially reopened to tourists under a vaccine passport program last November and has received over 10,000 visitors since.

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