Travel agencies concerned over new testing policies for int'l arrivals

March 05, 2022 - 08:48

While Việt Nam is determined to reopen for international tourists from March 15, a new proposal from the Ministry of Health is raising concerns among travel agencies. 

International tourists visit the Temple of Literature in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tùng

HÀ NỘI — While Việt Nam is determined to reopen for international tourists from March 15, a new proposal from the Ministry of Health is raising concerns among travel agencies. 

One of the draft regulations requires tourists to stay at their accommodation for the first 24 hours of entering Việt Nam.

It is also recommended that tourists do not go outside during the first 72 hours. If they do (after the first day), they will need to get tested for SARS-CoV-2 every day until the end of the 72-hour period.

The proposal has been met with concern from experts and businesses in the tourism sector.

According to Nguyễn Đức Chí, former deputy head of the Travel Management Division (under HCM City Department of Tourism), statistics from the health ministry revealed that on March 1, international arrivals only accounted for around 0.02 per cent of the daily national caseload (98,743 infections). 

This means that it is tourists who should be worried about the risk of infection when they come to Việt Nam, not the other way around, he said.

Sharing the same opinion, Nguyễn Châu Á, director of tour operator Oxalis, emphasised that the new document was an obstacle to inbound tourism resumption starting March 15, he said to Vietnamnet.

Director of Images Travel & Events Nguyễn Ngọc Toản also commented that the proposed regulation was a move ‘against growth’.

Phạm Hà, chairman of Lux Group, told Vietnam News Agency that post-arrival travel restrictions and policy inconsistency could lead to failures in attracting international tourists. 

He added that neighbouring country Thailand has already removed numerous obstacles for inbound tourists, with few travel restrictions after arrival. 

With major global changes and the complicated outbreak in Việt Nam, many travel agencies believed that it would be difficult to have international tourists when the country reopens in less than two weeks.

Phạm Hà raised concerns that if the country still "opens little by little’ like right now, there is a high chance that there would be no inbound tourists.

He pointed out that there would likely be fewer visitors from Russia, one of the major markets for Việt Nam's tourism, due to the ruble's drop in value and the Russia - Ukraine conflict.

Meanwhile, tourists from East Asian countries would not arrive until the third quarter or later, depending on their reopening policies.

It was also predicted that there would not be many visitors from the US, one of the markets with high purchasing power, as its CDC issued a warning against travelling to Việt Nam.

Hà believed that Việt Nam’s tourism sector now could only rely on neighbouring ASEAN countries, and a few countries in Europe and Oceania where flight routes have resumed.

He said: "When we open on March 15, I think that there won't be international tourists yet. 

"Our agency has been promoting sailing tours since June last year, but we have not put up the price list for fear of policy changes.

"Welcoming international arrivals also depends on visa and quarantine policies. So in the best-case scenario, it will not be until the third quarter of this year that we have customers coming in."

Concerned that policies will continue to change, Image Travel & Events declined to receive international tourists for the months of April and May, said its director Toản. 

Meanwhile, tour operator Oxalis said it would not focus on inbound tourism in 2022 due to the uncertainty in reopening plans.

According to Việt Nam Tourism Association, pilot programmes for international tourists, which started in November last year, did not meet expectations.

Among the reasons cited are urgent programme announcements, and a strict quarantine policy.

Tourists are still concerned over discrimination between domestic and inbound tourists in pandemic control.

Meanwhile, travel agencies, afraid that policies will continue to change, are reluctant in promoting their tours. — VNS