Foreign tourists in Hoi An, March 14, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/ Do Anh Vu
Fully vaccinated foreign tourists should be treated no different from domestic tourists when Vietnam reopens international tourism fully, removing all restrictions, an expert says.
Pham Truong Hoang, who teaches hospitality and tourism at the Hanoi-based National Economics University, said many countries around the world have fully reopened their borders to foreign tourists and if Vietnam is slow in reopening compared to its regional peers, it could lose its status and tourism competitiveness.
"The reopening for international tourists should be on the same lines as domestic tourism," Hoang said.
Vietnam lifted all restrictions on domestic tourism and this resulted in a tourism boom during the recent Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday. An estimated six million domestic tourists were welcomed in different destinations around the country during the holiday, three times last year's figure.
"The full reopening of international tourism will not increase Covid-19 outbreak risks because Vietnam boasts one of the world's highest vaccination rates," Hoang said.
While Vietnam has been recording around 30,000 daily infections, most of its 98-million population have returned to normal lives.
The government has agreed to reopen inbound and outbound tourism from March 15 under new normal conditions, with foreign tourists allowed to travel freely to Vietnam without booking tour packages as had been mandated so far in the reopening process.
To attract foreign tourists in the new normal period, the government should announce a detailed roadmap for reopening tourism and promote Vietnam as a safe destination to the international community on global news channels such as BBC and CNN. It should also launch tourism promotion programs, Hoang said.
"In addition, the tourism industry should prepare to deal efficiently with positive Covid cases as foreign tourists return to Vietnam so that we don't have to close inbound tourism after reopening."
Hoang also said that the number of international tourists remains low after official tourism reopening because foreign tourists need at least a few months to plan their trip.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the tourism industry has shown signs of recovery in 2021, up 4 percent compared to 2020. However, the number of visitors last year still reached 27 percent of the total number of visitors in 2019, the year before the onset of the pandemic.
Vietnam has set a target of welcoming five million foreign tourists this year and 18 million in 2026, equivalent to 2019 figures. Hoang said this can be achieved with the right measures and approach.
After two years of inbound tourism closures, most tourism personnel have switched to other jobs to earn their living and it is very important that adequate human resources are prepared for the industry to perform to expectations, he added.