Vietnam strives to resume international tourism amid Covid-19 pandemic


HANOI, April 2 (Xinhua): With proactive and continuous efforts, Vietnam is accelerating the resumption of international tourism while adapting flexibly to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taking place here from Thursday to Sunday (April 3) after two years of suspension, the Vietnam International Travel Mart 2022, the largest annual tourism fair in the Southeast Asian country, marked the reopening of the tourism sector. Vietnamese in the new normal context.

On another positive note, the country received around 91,000 international arrivals in the first quarter of this year, up 89.1 percent from the same period last year, its General Statistics Office said.

In recent weeks, promotional activities have accelerated in some localities, including Vietnamese capital Hanoi, northern Quang Ninh province and central Quang Nam province to welcome tourists.

Several new products such as maritime tourism, cultural tourism and ecotourism with unique characteristics of localities have been launched as highlights of the upcoming summer tourism season.

On March 15, the country fully reopened its borders to foreign visitors after nearly two years of Covid-19-related disruptions. As a result, most travel restrictions have been removed for international arrivals to Vietnam.

Visitors now only need to prove that they have been fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19, with a negative test result as required by local health authorities. They are also required to have insurance coverage of at least USD 10,000 for possible Covid-19 treatment in Vietnam.

Also since March 15, immigration procedures for foreigners have been restored to the same as before the Covid-19 pandemic, which means that citizens from a list of 80 countries and regions can now apply for an e-visa for a maximum stay of 30 days.

The Vietnamese government has reiterated its position to treat foreign and domestic tourists equally.

Vietnam had resumed the same day the policy of visa exemption for citizens of 13 countries, including Japan, South Korea and Russia, its main tourist markets. Previously, all restrictions on the frequency of international flights had been officially removed since February 15.

The country welcomed a record number of over 18 million visitors in 2019, the last full year before the coronavirus outbreak, compared to just 157,000 foreign arrivals in 2021 due to border closures. It has set itself the target of receiving more than 5 million foreign tourists in 2022, according to the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT).

At a recent meeting on reopening the sector, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Minh Vu said that a strong policy of opening up gives Vietnam the advantage of being among the “first comers”.

While many countries and regions are not yet open, tourists’ choices may no longer be as diverse as before the pandemic. The advantage will therefore belong to destinations that open early, actively promote and refresh their tourist image to attract the attention of tourists.

However, insiders largely agreed that the reopening does not mean foreign tourists will immediately flock to Vietnam as before the pandemic.

“Opening at this time is to take over the market so that we can welcome international visitors between September and March 2023, our annual high season,” VNAT managing director Nguyen Trung Khanh told local media.

Local experts believe it may take months or even years for visitor numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, citing their financial and health issues when travelling.

At present, it is difficult to reach customers in several major markets due to some travel restrictions, Khanh noted, adding that Russia, as another key market, is also affected by the pandemic and the current conflict in Ukraine.

According to Khanh, other obstacles stem from service capacity, technical facilities and human resources in the industry.

Over the past two years, many tourist areas have closed and facilities have deteriorated. Sector personnel are also scattered because they have been forced to change jobs.

Between 2020 and 2021, nearly 30% of the country’s travel agencies had their operating licenses revoked, leaving only about 2,000 of them to continue operating, Khanh said.

“They are facing difficulties, including the shortage of qualified and quality personnel,” he said. – Xinhua


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