Vietnam considers opening up select islands for foreign tourists

By Viet Tuan, Hoang Phong    May 28, 2020 | 08:54 pm PT
Vietnam considers opening up select islands for foreign tourists
Sao Beach on Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
The National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control says they are considering a pilot plan to bring international tourists to some islands.

The country could consider welcoming foreign visitors from countries and territories where there have been no new cases for at least 30 days and launch a pilot plan to bring them to some islands with strict safety measures to ensure health of both locals and foreigners, the committee said Thursday.

Vietnam has suspended international flights since March 25 and banned entry of foreign nationals since March 22 except for special cases.

Earlier, authorities in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang proposed welcoming foreign visitors to Vietnam’s largest island, Phu Quoc.

The committee, headed by Deputy PM Vu Duc Dam, has asked the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism to work with Kien Giang authorities to prepare a specific schedule and road map to welcome foreign tourists and report to the committee for consideration.

Phu Quoc, also known as the "pearl island", has become a top tourist destination in Vietnam after it opened an international airport in 2012 and began implementing a 30-day visa-free policy for foreigners since 2014. The island welcomed over five million visitors last year, up 30 percent from 2018. Of these, 541,600 were foreigners.

Phu Quoc is a famous holiday destination in Vietnam thanks to blue waters and fresh seafood. Photo by Shutterstock/Jimmy Tran.

Phu Quoc is an alluring destination in Vietnam with its beautiful beaches and fresh seafood. Photo by Shutterstock/Jimmy Tran.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) late last week said it is hoping to kickstart tourism again with select openings for foreign visitors. It said that it was preparing plans to welcome visitors from countries and territories in anticipation of recovery and disease control in key markets like Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia.

WeSwap, the U.K.’s largest travel money provider, this week listed Vietnam among the first economies likely to restart international tourism following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Politico, a U.S.-based political news organization, recently said that Vietnam has responded best to the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of health and economic impacts.

The country has gone 43 days without community transmission of Covid-19. It has reported 327 infections without any deaths. The number of active cases is 49.

With an international flight ban in place, Vietnam saw a 38 percent year-on-year drop in the January-April number of foreign visitors to 3.7 million, accompanied by corresponding 45 percent drop in tourism revenues to VND7.9 trillion ($337 million).

Trinh Thi Thuy, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said localities and travel businesses have responded warmly to the domestic tourism stimulus program, offering numerous discounts and new products. "Hotel occupancy rates have reached 80-90 percent and even 100 percent in some places, which are good signs for domestic tourism."

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