Foreign tourists disappointed by unclear reopening policies
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Foreign tourists walk on Saigon's Bui Vien Street in HCMC, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Many foreign travelers have expressed worries in the absence of official entry regulations a day before full tourism reopening in Vietnam.
"I'm extremely disappointed [...] that the Vietnamese government has no policy in place regarding visas and entry requirements at this late stage with one day to go before full tourism reopening," Ken Rafter from Sydney told VnExpress International.
Rafter said he had already booked flights, accommodation and tours in Vietnam in November 2021 as he planned to visit with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren from March 31.
His family is scheduled to visit popular tourist destinations like Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hoi An, Hanoi and Ninh Binh during this trip.
Rafter said he visited Vietnam three times before, with the last occasion being in March 2020. However, he arrived in Vietnam on March 13 but had to leave after only three days because of Covid.
Vietnam suspended all international flights and closed inbound tourism in March 2020 to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Though Rafter was keen on returning to visit Vietnam this month, he was confused as there has been no official information on visa policies or entry rules so far.
"I’ve heard everything from three-day quarantine upon arrival in Vietnam to one-night quarantine and also no quarantine. It appears that the health and tourism ministries are at odds regarding what policy to employ," he added.
Ivana Katrinka Palacios from the Philippines also felt "disappointed" as it's only a day before the reopening and Vietnam has no concrete nor clear tourism reopening plans.
"Foreigners will be hesitant to come to a country that changes its policies all the time. It's time for Vietnam to issue travel policies that will be easier for all of us to follow," she said.
Palacios plans to visit Vietnam, specifically Hanoi, but she has struggled with Vietnam's reopening policies.
"With Vietnam still not having unclear policies and inconsistent regulations, I plan to reschedule my trip and will wait for a few months when there are already clear, consistent, and foreigner-friendly regulations," she added.
Rafter said he really doesn't want to take his family to any alternative countries as he wishes to show his grandchildren why he considers Vietnam his ideal holiday destination.
"I hope tomorrow (March 15), we will hear definitive rules and regulations regarding entry to Vietnam," he said.
Palacios said she hoped that Vietnam would have foreign-friendly regulations when it comes to its tourism reopening policies.
"Vietnam should look at neighboring countries on the tourism policies they can implement. ASEAN countries have been dealing with the same struggles or issues they have with Covid-19 but still were able to open to foreign tourists," she added.
From March 15, Vietnam is set to lift most travel restrictions and foreign tourists would be allowed to visit the country without booking tour packages.
Vietnam has received over 10,000 foreign arrivals since November last year as the country partially reopened international tourism under a vaccine passport program. However, not many foreigners are comfortable with the requirement that they must stay in a resort or hotel area during their time in Vietnam.
This year, the country has set a target of welcoming five to six million foreign tourists. In 2019, the year before the onset of the pandemic, it welcomed a record 18 million foreign tourists.
With borders closed, the number of foreign arrivals last year plunged by 96 percent against 2020.
In its proposal for full tourism reopening, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has rejected a Health Ministry's proposal to increase isolation time and Covid-19 tests for foreign tourists entering Vietnam.
In a proposal submitted to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh for approval, the tourism ministry suggested retaining the initial requirement that foreign tourists head immediately to their places of accommodation and move about freely 24 hours after entry if they test negative for the virus.
The health ministry's recommendation was that tourists self-isolate for three days and be tested two to three times during this period. It also suggested that unvaccinated children should be self-isolated for seven days and tested each day.
There have also been proposals to scrap Covid tests and vaccination requirement for foreign entrants.
To date, the government has not made a final decision on these issues.