Vietnam not bold enough in tourism reopening: expert
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Foreign tourists take a boat tour at Thung Nham ecotourism area in Ninh Binh Province, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh
Vietnam is one of six top countries with the highest vaccine coverage rate, but it is still "timid" and "lacks confidence" in reopening international tourism, an expert says.
Tran Dinh Thien, a member of the prime minister's economic advisory group, said Vietnam is not pushing itself enough as a safe tourist destination despite its high vaccination coverage.
The country is "still timid and not really confident in reopening," he said.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism needs to have a clearer, more proactive roadmap to tell the world that Vietnam is a safe destination and ready to welcome back foreign tourists, Thien said.
This would be an opportunity for Vietnam's aviation and tourism industries, which have been hit hardest by the Covid pandemic for the last two years, to strengthen their positions on the global map, he added.
"Vietnam has been too cautious in reopening tourism. It has so far offered a visa-free policy for citizens from just 13 countries for a maximum of 15 days.
"The government should grant visa exemption to more countries and prolong the stay of tourists to lure more foreigners back to the country because this would be an opportunity for aviation and travel firms to bounce back after nearly two years," he reiterated.
The government resumed its unilateral visa exemption policy for citizens from 13 countries as Vietnam reopened inbound tourism a fortnight ago after nearly two years of closure.
Citizens from Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. are allowed to visit Vietnam for up to 15 days without a visa regardless of passport type and entry purpose.
The country also has bilateral visa exemption policy for ASEAN co-members, Chile and Kyrgyzstan.
"If Vietnam can recover tourism soon and boost its position on the global tourism map, the country’s competitiveness would improve dramatically," Thien said.
Vietnam was ranked 63rd among 140 economies in a 2019 tourism competitiveness ranking, according to a report released by the World Economic Forum. It said the tourism industry was limited by low labor productivity and reluctance to apply advanced information and communication technologies.
In 2019, before the onset of Covid-19, Vietnam had received a record 18 million foreign tourists.
The target this year is to welcome five to six million foreign tourists.
The country reopened to foreign tourists on March 15, requiring them to produce negative Covid test result, either from PCR or rapid testing, before arrival.