Vietnam domestic tourism resumes with stringent safeguards
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October witnessed a revival in tourism as domestic flights resumed and provinces and cities restarted tourism activities and welcomed back domestic visitors, but quarantine rules remained a bottleneck.
The fourth coronavirus wave that began in late April killed the peak summer travel season, forcing hotels, restaurants and entertainment complexes to suspend operation for nearly five months due to the absence of tourists.
As the pandemic is basically under control and the government changed its strategy from seeking zero Covid cases to responding safely to the disease, some tourist destinations like Quang Ninh, Lam Dong, Quang Binh and Hai Phong have eased social distancing restrictions and allow vaccinated tourists entry.
On October 10 the government permitted domestic flights to resume after over two months and travel companies launched tours complying with new normal requirements.
One common requirement for all tours was that every tourist must be fully vaccinated with the second dose administered at least 14 days before arrival or furnish a certificate showing they had contracted and recovered from Covid. They also need a negative PCR test done within 72 hours before departure.
On October 15 Quang Binh and Vung Tau welcomed back the first bunch of domestic tourists from HCMC since the country reopened.
Then, on the 23rd, 17 people from Hanoi went on a one-day tour to Bac Giang Province and 100 tourists from HCMC went to the southern province of Tay Ninh, home to the famous spiritual site Ba Den Mountain Complex and seat of the Cao Dai religious sect.
Visitors from Hanoi in a tour in Bac Giang Province, October 23, 2021. Photo by VnExpress
On October 24 over 100 people from HCMC visited Mui Ne, a popular beach resort town in the south-central province of Binh Thuan.
With the revival of domestic tourism, travel firms, hotels, resorts, and other accommodation facilities are hopeful.
In the north, a number of famous resorts like Melia Ba Vi Mountain Retreat, Avana Retreat, Mai Chau Hideaway, Serena Resort Kim Boi, and FLC Ha Long have resumed operations, and some are fully booked during weekends.
In the south-central region, sequestered resorts in the Cam Ranh Peninsula in Khanh Hoa Province such as The Anam, Radisson Blu, Movenpick Cam Ranh, Cam Ranh Riviera, and Noa Resort Cam Ranh have also got the green light from authorities to welcome back tourists.
Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province has allowed the Melia Ho Tram Resort, The Grand Ho Tram Resort & Casino, Binh Chau Hot Springs, and Six Senses Con Dao Resort to reopen to tourists.
Major tour operator Vietravel has reopened more than 30 offices after over four months of closure and began tours to Can Gio and Cu Chi districts in HCMC, Tay Ninh Province and Binh Chau Hot Spring in Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
It plans to launch tours from HCMC to Phan Thiet, Nha Trang and Da Lat this month.
Other travel companies such as Saigontourist, Fiditour and TSTtourist have also operated a number of tours to Can Gio and Cu Chi.
The open-top double-decker bus service that takes tourists to major tourist attractions around HCMC resumed on October 25.
International tourism reopening
Also last month Quang Nam, Kien Giang, Khanh Hoa, and Quang Ninh provinces and Da Nang City got approval from the government to allow in foreign tourists from November as part of a roadmap to gradually resume international tourism.
Phu Quoc Island, a popular tourism spot, plans to welcome back the first foreign tourists on November 20. They will arrive by charter flights, be aged 18 and above and have got at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.
As Phu Quoc prepares to welcome back foreign tourists, travel firms say they are ready and expectant.
Quang Nam authorities plan to allow foreign tourists to visit UNESCO-recognized sites Hoi An and My Son and stay at designated resorts while Khanh Hoa proposes to allow tourists to visit sequestered resorts on Long Beach in Cam Ranh, around 45 kilometers from Nha Trang.
Tourists row kayaks on a flooded road in Hoi An ancient town, following heavy downpours, October 2021. Photo by Xuyen Vy
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam has proposed the launch of commercial flights to take foreign visitors to several tourist destinations like Phu Quoc, Khanh Hoa and Quang Ninh from this quarter.
The tourists will first be quarantined at a designated hotel for seven days upon arrival in Vietnam.
But experts said the quarantine rule makes this unfeasible.
The tourism ministry last month exempted fully immunized domestic tourists from Covid tests, and people will only be tested if they show symptoms or come from areas designated high-risk.
However, quarantine requirements remain a bottleneck with many localities still requiring visitors to self-monitor their health upon arrival for seven to 14 days even when fully vaccinated.
Some popular tourist destinations such as Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Cam Ranh, and Quang Ninh have not yet reopened to domestic tourists while others are unable to do so due to low vaccination rates.
Tuong Huu Loc, vice chairman of the Lam Dong Tourism Association, said his province is now fully ready to welcome back domestic tourists, but its vaccination rate remains low with employees at travel agencies, hotels and tourism services not yet getting two shots.
The province, home to Da Lat, should be able to allow in tourists from early December, he added.
Vu The Binh, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said provinces should prioritize vaccination of people living in economic hubs and tourist destinations to facilitate rapid tourism recovery.
Tourists would only travel if safety is assured and procedures are convenient, he added.