Since May, inbound travel agencies still operating in Vietnam have been receiving frequent requests from their partners in European and North American markets for updates on tourism products and service prices as they prepare for international tourism to resume in the near future.
Pham Ha, chairman of Hanoi-based Lux Group, which specializes in providing luxury travel services for foreign tourists to Vietnam, said in addition to targeting domestic tourism to keep operations going amid pandemic times, the company has kept in touch with travel partners in other countries to develop products and be ready to welcome vaccinated international visitors back to the country when the government approves.
While poor and low-income countries are struggling to secure enough vaccine doses due to a lack of supply, the U.S. and European countries have outpaced the rest of the world in their vaccination roll-out campaign and many people have expressed their desire to resume traveling.
Travel companies in the U.K. have said their customers will “immediately return” to Vietnam when the Vietnamese government reopens its doors to foreign tourists. He said Germans in particular favored Vietnam as one of Asian countries to visit.
Ha said the company’s partners appreciate Vietnam‘s successful containment of Covid-19, besides the country’s traditional strengths of culture, cuisine, people and landscape.
However safety remained a top priority, so the partners were looking forward to results of Vietnam’s vaccination campaign and its reopening plans, he added.
Travel firms have reported particular interest among foreign tourists for boat tours in Nha Trang (Khanh Hoa Province) and Lan Ha Bay on Cat Ba Island (Hai Phong), and for stays in resorts in places like Pu Luong (Thanh Hoa Province) and Phu Quoc Island (Kien Giang Province).
The inbound tour sales department of leading tour operators such as Fiditour and Vietluxtour Travel are among those reporting interest from foreign partners in package tours to explore the culture and cuisine of Vietnam.
Tran Thi Bao Thu, director of marketing and communications at Fiditour, said the biggest barrier to resuming international travel is the complicated pandemic situation in many parts of the world. Therefore, not only Vietnam but also many Asian countries with a thriving tourism industry like Thailand, Singapore and South Korea are still considering vaccine passport policies to welcome international tourists back.
The Vietnamese government had said last April that it was considering allowing foreign visitors in with vaccine passports. However, the country is currently grappling with a new Covid-19 wave with new strains and experts are worried about an eventual vaccine passport plan.
Assoc Prof Pham Trung Luong, former head of the Institute for Tourism Development Research in Hanoi, told VnExpress International that it was not a suitable time to allow foreign tourists back in with vaccine passports because it “could prove more challenging for the country and we might even pay a heavy price for it.”
The ideal condition to reopen to international tourists would be after the country achieves herd immunity, he said.
“With herd immunity not yet achieved, potential Covid-19 outbreaks are likely even if foreign tourists are in isolated places.”
The government had closed national borders and canceled all international flights in March last year. Only Vietnamese repatriates, foreign experts, diplomats, investors and highly-skilled workers are allowed in with stringent conditions.
Due to border closures and travel restrictions, Vietnam recorded a 79 percent decline year-on-year in the number of foreign visitors in 2020, according to official data.
It has also been carrying out a mass vaccination campaign since March, under which more than 1.3 million people have received their shots.