Travel firms tense as tourism resumption plan remains incomplete

By Nguyen Quy    March 9, 2022 | 04:47 pm PT
Travel firms tense as tourism resumption plan remains incomplete
American tourists pose for a photo on Nguyen Hue pedestrian street in HCMC, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh
With barely a week to go before the full resumption of international tourism announced by the government, visa policies and entry restrictions have not been finalized, leaving travel firms puzzled.

Pham Ha, CEO of the Lux Group, which specializes in luxury cruises, said he felt "discouraged" and "disappointed" as a final decision on visa policy and entry restrictions for foreign tourists has not been made with just a few days to go until full resumption of inbound tourism resumption (March 15).

Ha said many European tourists from the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Turkey were asking his company about visa exemption policies and entry restrictions, but he doesn't now know how to answer them.

"No foreign tourist will be ready to return to the country if tourism barriers and quarantine measures are still in place," he said.

Hoang Thuy Linh, deputy director of marketing and communications at HCMC tour operator Saigontourist, said delay in issuing specific instructions on the reopening would hinder the tourism industry's recovery.

Foreign tourists now have more holiday choices in Southeast Asia with Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines fully reopening to international visitors, lifting mandatory quarantine requirements, she said.

Linh said March was not the peak season for inbound tourism, so her company remained focused on exploiting the domestic market.

Nguyen Nguyet Van Khanh, deputy marketing head at travel firm Vietravel, said countries in the region were racing against time to reopen international tourism and "if we are still slow in issuing detailed instructions on reopening, the tourism industry would lose out on a 'golden opportunity' for recovery."

"If Vietnam reopens inbound tourism from March 15 and allows tourists to travel freely 24 hours after on testing negative, I think Vietravel and other travel firms will be able to welcome back foreign tourists from late April," she said.

Nguyen Chau A, CEO of private tour operator Oxalis Adventure, which takes people on exclusive cave tours in the central province of Quang Binh, said his company has been unable to sell tours to international tourists because specific instructions have not been issued so far.

Last week, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism rejected a health ministry proposal to increase isolation time and Covid-19 tests for foreign tourists entering Vietnam.

In a proposal submitted to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh for approval, the tourism ministry suggested retaining the initial requirement that foreign tourists head immediately to their accommodations and move out freely 24 hours after entry if they test negative for the virus.

The health ministry's recommendation was that tourists should self-isolate for three days and be tested two to three times during this period. It also suggested that unvaccinated children should be self-isolated for seven days and tested each day.

To date, the government has not made a final decision on this issue.

Many travel firms agreed that no foreign tourist would want to visit or return to Vietnam under such strict quarantine and testing requirements, particularly when several countries in the region have already resumed inbound tourism with easy-to-meet conditions.

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