Tourism experts divided over proposed 'vaccine passport' arrivals in Quang Nam

 Tourism experts divided over proposed 'vaccine passport' arrivals in Quang Nam

Hoi An is crowded with tourists at weekend, April 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Son Thuy.

With Quang Nam Province awaiting government approval to welcome foreign travelers vaccinated against Covid-19, some experts showed support for the pilot project while others expressed their concern.

Quang Nam Province, home to UNESCO heritage sites Hoi An ancient town and My Son sanctuary, is pending government green light to become the first locality to welcome foreign tourists carrying Covid-19 vaccine passports.

Dinh Hai, former director of the Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the central province is capable of meeting traffic infrastructure, health service and tourism demands implicit in welcoming vaccinated foreign tourists. "Quang Nam has Chu Lai International Airport and some large resorts in South Hoi An."

He proposed only welcoming tourists to two cordoned off resorts in Duy Xuyen District or Nui Thanh District in the province, which neighbors Da Nang City. They along with resort staff would be strictly supervised to avoid the risk of spreading the virus to the community.

Phan Xuan Thanh, president of the Quang Nam Tourism Association, said: "This is a competition and if we do not take the initiative, we will lag behind other countries."

"Foreign tourists will stay in a separate area, just play golf or use tourism services there and would not travel to other localities," Thanh added.

Associate Professor Pham Trung Luong, former head of the Hanoi-based Institute for Tourism Development Research, has a more cautious perspective on the pilot project. He said Vietnam should discuss with other countries a uniform procedure for recognizing vaccine passports and Covid-19 tests.

"Currently, countries around the world are using different Covid-19 vaccines with different testing procedures, so it is necessary to ensure that these certificates are suitable to Vietnam. The nation also needs to build a system to detect fake vaccine passports, which are cropping up in some countries."

Luong added that the most ideal condition for Vietnam to reopen its door to international tourists would be when the country gains herd immunity. "While herd immunity not yet achieved, potential Covid-19 outbreaks are more likely, even when hosting foreign tourists in cordoned off areas."

Under the vaccine passport pilot project outlined by Quang Nam authorities, arriving foreign tourists must have a vaccine passport (documented proof of two shots of vaccination) and a certificate from medical agencies showing negative Covid-19 test results, and only stay in cordoned off resorts. They will be tested for Covid-19 from once to twice.

The project will have visitors entering Vietnam on tours organized by international travel agencies. During the first phase proposed to start in July, Quang Nam authorities are expected to welcome visitors from South Korea and countries that have contained the outbreaks.

The group of tourists will arrive on a charter flight at Chu Lai Airport and be taken straight to resorts in Duy Xuyen District or Nui Thanh District for a maximum stay of five days to play golf, visit casinos or enjoy sea tourism services.

Under the plan, they will be exempt from centralized quarantine. As per Health Ministry protocol, currently, foreign passengers entering the country must be sent to centralized quarantine facilities for 14 days.

Due to the closure of the borders as a pandemic safety measure, the number of international visitors to Vietnam was only 3.7 million in 2020, down 80 over 2019.

Vietnam stopped all international commercial flights in March 2020. International visitors entering the country since are mainly experts, high-tech workers, investors and foreigners working on national projects.

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