Why Vietnam yet to attract many foreign tourists in new normal?
Update: Dec 21, 2021
After a month of piloting a scheme aimed at welcoming back international arrivals, few foreign tourists have chosen to visit Vietnam, saying strict quarantine regulations and cumbersome immigration procedures are to blame.

Hoi An welcomes back international visitors as of November 

Tough quarantine rules

According to representatives from various local airlines and travel firms, tough quarantine regulations remain the biggest obstacle to visitors’ decision-making.

“We have entered negotiations with representatives of Russian and Swiss airlines who insisted that they would reopen flights as soon as Vietnam drops its quarantine requirement for coming visitors who are already fully vaccinated,” Le Van Nghia, director of Nhat Minh Tourism Joint Stock Company, told zingnews.vn.

Nghia said Nhat Minh has yet to receive any group of foreign visitors though the company has planned to serve approximately 2,000 visitors a month.  

Vietnam has carried out a pilot scheme since mid-November to receive back foreign tourists with a vaccine passport to destinations in Kien Giang, Quang Nam, Da Nang, Khanh Hoa and Quang Ninh. Indeed, a total of 1,179 foreign travelers have arrived in Vietnam on package tours, but none of them have chosen destinations in either Da Nang or Quang Ninh for tours, according to data given by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

In a latest proposal made by the Ministry of Health to the Government, fully vaccinated arrivals from overseas will be only required to self-quarantine at home or other places of residence for three days upon entry as of January 1, 2022. They will also be required to record a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country, with an exemption for children under two years old. 

Meanwhile, entrants who have yet to be fully vaccinated will be forced to remain in quarantine for seven days. They will then be tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus on the first and seventh days, and if the test proves negative, they will then continue to monitor their health until the 14th day.

Dr Luong Hoai Nam, a member of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Council, said that such a policy is causing difficulties for travel firms, and the tourism sector in general.

He suggested that Vietnam should learn from tourism reopening models adopted by neighbouring countries, including Thailand that has welcomed fully vaccinated visitors from 63 countries and territories worldwide with the same visa policy as implemented before the pandemic.

Alongside Thailand, many other countries such as the United States and those in Europe have all welcomed international visitors with a vaccine passport. Even Dubai of the United Arab Emirates only requires visitors to have a PCR test upon entry.

Cumbersome procedures

In its recent report reviewing the implementation of the pilot scheme, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism pointed out that difficult visa procedures also bar travel firms from receiving back visitors.

According to current regulations, travel businesses are required to submit a written request to the Immigration Department for approval for foreign tourists entering from traditional markets such as the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Russia, all of which used to be exempted from visas.

Tran Nguyen, head of the Sales Department of Sun World, said at present the group's hotels and resorts in Phu Quoc island city have not been able to welcome international guests from destinations like Russia, as Russian travelers are yet to be authorised to fly to the island.

International visitors entering Vietnam must go through a lot of procedures as well as many declaration software programmes, but the current immigration management software IGOVN is not optimized to support visitors’ declarations, said Tran Nguyen.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thu Phuong, CEO of Vinpearl Luxury, noted that tour operators and State management agencies should set up a regular communication channel to iron out problems that may arise.

For each group of tourists to come there are arising problems that require specific guidance from State management agencies and these problems need to be addressed immediately, she stressed.  

From January 1, 2022, Vietnam will pilot the resumption of nine commercial routes connecting Beijing/Guangzhou, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok, Singapore, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, and San Francisco/Los Angeles.

The move will give the tourism sector a chance to welcome back foreign visitors instead of conducting only charter flights. But experts said the tourism sector and other relevant agencies should resolve inadequacies in terms of quarantine rules and visa procedures in order to further attract foreign tourists in the future.