Vietnam to welcome first Thai vaccine passport tourists this month
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South Korean tourists walk inside Vinpearl Resort & Spa on Long Beach in Phu Quoc Island, November 22, 2021. Photo courtesy of Vinpearl
Vietnam is expected to welcome the first group of Thai tourists under an ongoing vaccine passport trial program this month, a top tourism official says.
Vietnamese tourism officials would work with Thai counterparts to set up a ‘travel bubble’ scheme as Thailand has proved successful in welcoming international tourists amid Covid-19 with the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ model, Nguyen Trung Khanh, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said at a seminar on Vietnam’s tourism recovery plan.
The ‘Phuket Sandbox" program allows travelers who are fully vaccinated to enter the island city of Phuket without quarantine from July 1 and the tourism model has since been expanded across Thailand. Foreign tourists with vaccine passports from over 60 countries and territories, including Vietnam, are exempt from mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
The Vietnamese government also plans to resume regular international flights to 15 countries and territories with high vaccination rates, including Thailand, from December.
Thailand was Vietnam's fastest growing tourist market before the pandemic, with the number of visitors from that country rising by 46 percent year-on-year to 509,000 in 2019.
In less than three weeks of international tourism reopening under the vaccine passport program, Vietnam has welcomed 978 foreign tourists to Quang Nam, Khanh Hoa, and Kien Giang.
"This is a good sign of tourism recovery during the new normal period and proves that Vietnam remains a favorite and attractive destination for foreign tourists," Khanh said.
Khanh Hoa, Kien Giang and Quang Nam are three of five localities that are allowed to welcome fully vaccinated foreign tourists from November onwards. The two other localities are Quang Ninh and Da Nang.
By the end of December, Da Nang is expected to welcome 11,500 foreign tourists followed by Khanh Hoa with 9,400 and Kien Giang's Phu Quoc Island with 3,500.
Speaking at the seminar, Nguyen Quoc Ky, CEO and chairman of tour company Vietravel, said international visitors arriving in Vietnam was really a good sign, but the small number of tourists in November was not enough to restore the tourism industry to health after a hiatus of nearly two years due to border closures.
He suggested that the industry set up a travel bubble with ASEAN countries and focus on South Korean and Japanese tourists, Vietnam’s biggest tourism feeder markets.
Vietnam closed its doors to foreign tourists and grounded international flights in March 2020, and has since allowed entry only to Vietnamese repatriates and foreign experts, investors and highly-skilled workers.
The country recorded a 79 percent year-on-year decline in the number of foreign visitors in 2020. It welcomed just 3.83 million foreign visitors last year against a record 18 million in 2019.