Foreign tourists in the central coastal city of Đà Nẵng. — VNA/VNS Photo Trần Lê Lâm
HÀ NỘI — The Government’s board for private economic development research (IV Board) has proposed the scrapping of pre-entry COVID-19 testing requirements for foreign arrivals to Việt Nam to stimulate tourism.
The proposal, which also requested the health ministry to stipulate that rapid COVID-19 tests should be conducted at the border gates only for those who display suspect COVID-19 symptoms like fever and coughing, was reportedly sent to the Prime Minister last week.
The board also wants the health ministry’s requirement for tourists to have insurance with coverage for COVID-19 treatment of up to US$10,000 to be abolished.
These regulations are considered to be inconvenient and do not demonstrate benefits in COVID-19 prevention and control, and are not “keeping up with the current situation,” given that the domestic tourists in the country have not been required to have negative COVID-19 test results or file medical declarations for quite some time now, according to the board.
Without the removal of these requirements, international tourists would pivot to other destinations with more convenient and relaxed entry protocols than Việt Nam.
The board also noted that Việt Nam’s visa policy has not been operated as before the COVID-19 pandemic even though the policy has been to reinstate pre-pandemic visa protocols since March 15, 2022.
The preferential policy on visa exemption "has not yet met the post-pandemic tourism trends, and is not competitive compared to other countries in the region". Visitors to Việt Nam still have to complete many complicated procedures and documents. Electronic visa (e-visa) system does not have a mechanism to confirm the date of automatic response on the website, and still doesn’t explain why the application was refused, making it difficult for visitors to enter the country.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security are urged to expand visa exemption for visitors from potential tourism markets like the United States, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands; and increase the period for visa-free stay in Việt Nam for visitors from the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and other northern European countries from 15 to 30 days.
Việt Nam should also implement multiple entry visas with longer exemption period, slash administrative procedures required of travel agencies and tourists, and simplify e-visa and visa procedures at border gates.
Việt Nam’s reopening plan does not require visitors to show COVID-19 vaccination status but instead proof of negative COVID-19 tests done between 72 hours for PCR tests, and 24 hours for rapid antigen tests.
Domestically, thanks to high vaccination and declining daily case increases and hospitalisations and deaths, most COVID-19 measures – except for masking – have been lifted, with the suspension of medical declaration for domestic use and foreign entries being the latest to get the axe.
Since the complete reopening on March 15, 2022, Việt Nam has received 22,300 international arrivals, with 15,000 in March, which is but a fraction of pre-pandemic figures given that the country received 18 million foreign visitors in 2019 and had targeted 20.5 million visitors in 2020 before the pandemic disrupted plans.
With strict border closures, Việt Nam received only 3.8 million foreign visitors in the year the pandemic broke out, down 78.7 per cent compared to 2019.— VNS