Vietnam recently eased re-entry protocols for foreign workers and overseas Vietnamese, in a sign that’s being hailed as a precursor to a more general reopening in the months ahead. Ostensibly designed to smoothen the return of citizens in time for Tet – the Lunar New Year holidays, which start tomorrow (5/2) – the move is indicative of Vietnam’s change in tactics towards Covid; living with the virus, rather than attempting to eradicate it completely. It is this recent paradigm shift that’s providing reason for optimism in the nation’s tourism sector.
Over the past two months, around 9,000 international travellers have already entered Vietnam under a pilot scheme greenlit by the government. The success of this programme has proved Vietnam to be a safe and attractive destination, and encouraged officials that a full reopening is possible. The government was originally planning to lift all restrictions by 1 May at the latest. However, in response to success of the pilot scheme, and subsequent pressure from the tourism industry, this date could be moved forward to the end of March.
Speaking at a workshop on 24 January, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung confirmed the ministry expects the pilot reopening scheme to run until the end of April. After that, inbound travel will be resumed. He explained that that the recent reopening of Vietnam’s neighbours (such as Thailand and the Philippines) was a factor in the decision, while the proposed timeline has been designed to ensure all the relevant SOP are in place before Vietnam fully reopens.
The Ministry has since revised its estimates and backed proposals for tourism to resume fully from 31 March. In a proposal submitted to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on 29 January, the ministry confirmed this would be feasible, as Vietnam would have completed its booster shot vaccination campaign to facilitate herd immunity. “If the country is slow in reopening, it would lose its opportunity to attract foreign tourists as many regional countries have already restarted their international tourism,” noted the ministry.
In further good news, Flights from Vietnam to Thailand have already resumed, with three weekly services from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Flights to and from Thailand and Singapore are also available for sale in Vietnam, but are limited to expatriate residents, business travellers, government officials and Vietnamese residents returning home from overseas.
So what will the tourism revival look like in Vietnam? And how will travellers need to prepare in the months ahead? Well, Vietnam has already approved a three-phase plan for the return of foreign travellers:
Phase 1, which kicked off in November 2021, created a Sandbox arrangement in selected areas such as Phu Quoc, Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Danang and Quang Ninh. This quarantine-free travel bubble is available to all those who are fully vaccinated, via charter flights.
Phase 2, which runs from January 2022 to March 2022, provides round-trip flights between Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok, Thailand. Travellers must self-monitor their health and must not leave their hotels or places of residence for three days. After that, if they have a negative PCR test and are fully vaccinated, they are free to travel elsewhere.
Phase 3, which could be end of March or end of April 2022, involves fully reopening the market to foreign travellers. The timeline of phase 3 launch will be determined by the success of the two pilot phases that precede it.
To be eligible for entry, travellers must prove they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with the second dose administered no less than two weeks prior to departure. They will also need a negative result from an RT-PCR/RT-LAMP-method test, taken within 72 hours of boarding. Finally, travellers will need to have medical insurance covering Covid-19 treatment, wort a minimum of US$50,000.
For most of 2020 and early 2021, Vietnam remained virtually free of Covid-19. This was because the country was quick to impose border restrictions and quarantines, deploying intensive contact tracing teams where needed and imposing localised lockdowns to keep the virus at bay.
With consistently low cases and a speedy response to new infections, the country was ranked in the top three out of almost 100 countries graded by the official Lowy Institute Covid Performance Index, which assesses the overall success and efficiency of each nation’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, Vietnam was one of only a handful of countries worldwide to register economic growth (2.9%).
However, the emergence of the Delta virus in May 2021 pushed the country’s capabilities to their limit. In response to the last outbreak, the government issued strict stay-at-home orders in major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The situation has now improved, and the country is looking forward to safely and steadily reopening its tourism infrastructure.
The Panorama Destination Vietnam office has been put into ‘hibernation’ until further notice, or until the global Covid-19 situation has stabilised. We are working to ensure the safety of Panorama Destination clients when the country, and our operations, reopen. We have already introduced a set of health and safety protocols based on a dedicated Covid-19 policy and continue to work alongside the Government and with other DMCs in Southeast Asia, to ensure safe and standardised services for all returning visitors. Our offices in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia remain open. Panorama Destination will continue to provide the latest breaking news regarding Covid-19 and its impact on tourism via our social media channels:
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(Please note that the Covid-19 situation continues to develop on an almost daily basis. All information above is accurate at the time of writing – for the latest updates, please refer to our social media channels, or get in touch directly)