|Foreign tourists visit the Củ Chi Tunnels in HCM City before COVID outbreaks hit the country. VNS Photo Bồ Xuân Hiệp|
HCM CITY — Tourism insiders and experts have called for consistent guidelines and policies as the southern metropolis prepares to resume international tourism under “new normal” conditions.
Speaking at a meeting on Thursday, Võ Anh Tài, deputy general director of Saigontourist, said travel firms badly needed consistency in guidelines to ensure safe reopening of international tourism in HCM City.
"In fact, the consistency has to be maintained nationwide because tourism is a key sector that involves many other sectors and localities across the country," he said.
“They must develop plans for handling COVID cases coming from tourists,” he added.
He noted that the company was ready to welcome international tourists after two years of closure due to the pandemic. “All employees have been fully vaccinated and accommodation facilities are disinfected regularly.”
Việt Nam should resume the visa-free entry policy for 22 countries that was suspended in March 2020, Tài said.
Huỳnh Phan Phương Hoàng, deputy general director of Vietravel, said the sector should improve nightlife tourism products, especially after 10pm, to attract more international visitors.
The city needs to consider removing the PCR test requirement after three days of arrival to reduce the financial burden on both tourists and businesses, according to Hoàng.
Currently, tourists have to present a certificate of full vaccination or recovery from the disease within six months, as well as negative test results before boarding (24 hours for rapid tests and 72 hours for PCR tests).
Within three days of arrival in the country, they must have a negative PCR test result again before engaging in tourism activities.
International tourists are now hesitant to visit Việt Nam due to such strict regulations. Surveys by travel firms show there is no demand until the fourth quarter of 2022.
The demand is low, most people only come to visit their relatives in Việt Nam.
Nguyễn Thị Ánh Hoa, director of the municipal Department of Tourism, said the city was ready to resume international tourism with new sightseeing tours and events like the Áo Dài (Vietnamese traditional dress) Festival that is opening this weekend.
The city’s major tourist attractions include its colonial era Post Office, the historic Củ Chi Tunnels, the Rừng Sác historical war zone, the War Remnants Museum, the Southern Women’s Museum and the HCM City History Museum.
New tourism products include sightseeing tours to explore the new Thủ Đức City, Bình Chánh and Hóc Môn districts, to learn more about old Saigon and enjoy the emerging new HCM City.
Waterway tours from the city downtown to Củ Chi and Cần Giờ districts and on the Nhiêu Lộc-Thị Nghè canal are other attractions.
The tourism sector also plans helicopter tours to offer aerial views of the city as well as high-speed boat tours to Côn Đảo Islands off Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu Province.
The traditional tours to the Củ Chi Tunnel and Cần Giờ mangrove forest are expected to remain popular.
Some 34 hotels with more than 6,800 rooms across the city are participating in a pilot programme to welcome back international tourists this year.
The city has nearly 60 three-to-five star hotels that meet international standards to welcome international visitors.
Hoa said five travel firms have participated in a pilot programme to welcome international tourists under package tours that arrange for them to visit separate sightseeing areas without contacting domestic tourists during the first three days of self-monitoring.
The city’s tourism sector is still waiting for specific guidelines to resume international tourism from the central government, relevant ministries and sectors, she added.
The largest city has set itself a target of attracting 3.5 million international visitors and 25 million local travellers this year.
Việt Nam plans to fully reopen tourism and lift travel restrictions from March 15. — VNS