The tourism industry in Vietnam is working on a proposal which will hopefully enable the country to allow international flights again starting 1 July 2021. Currently, with a few exceptions, it is not yet possible to travel to Vietnam, and online visa applications are not being processed either.
Vietnam praised for handling of pandemic
Vietnam is praised worldwide for its approach to the coronavirus crisis. While in many countries, including the United Kingdom, the number of deaths run into the thousands, in Vietnam only 35 people have thus far died of coronavirus. The number of coronavirus infections in Vietnam, a bit over 2500, is also extremely low. Yet the government has so far refused to open its borders to tourists of any kind. Although there are countries that are already experimenting with admitting foreign tourists despite having far worse covid figures, Vietnam keeps its borders closed.
Tourism hit hard
It is therefore no surprise that tourism in Vietnam has virtually collapsed. The number of tourists to Vietnam fell by a staggering 79 per cent in 2020. The decline in the number of tourists hits the country especially hard, as Vietnam saw a structural increase in the number of foreign visitors in previous years. In 2019, it even reached a new record of 18 million incoming tourists. In 2020, there were only 3.83 million.
Vietnam’s tourism sector is therefore sounding the alarm. Although the government spends millions to keep businesses afloat, experts in Vietnam say this is an untenable situation. Nguyen Huu Tho, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said Vietnam should try to take advantage of the excellent coronavirus policies implemented so far. According to Tho, conditions in the country are now positive enough to look at the possibility of admitting foreign tourists again. Tho is supported in this by other prominent figures in Vietnam’s travel industry such as Pham Duy Nghia of the Viet Food Travel Company and Nguyen Ngoc Toan of the Images Travel Company.
One of the measures proposed by major tourism companies is the introduction of a so-called “covid passport” or vaccination passport. This passport contains proof that the holder does not pose a risk of spreading the virus. This can be achieved in various ways, such as having a recent negative test result, proof of vaccination or proof of immunity if you recently recovered from Covid-19. It could eliminate the need for a PCR test on arrival in Vietnam and shorten or even eliminate the mandatory quarantine period. Nguyen Trung Khanh, the head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said he was working with other companies and organisations on a proposal for such a vaccination passport. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Vietnam is also involved.
Vietnam is certainly not the only country considering such a passport. Both the USA and the United Kingdom are looking at possibilities to travel with a special covid passport and the EU has also announced they plan to further investigate this option as soon as vaccination levels in EU countries are high enough.
Visa remains mandatory
Although a vaccination passport may allow travellers to travel to Vietnam again, Vietnam’s visa requirements will remain in place. The government has so far said nothing about possibly temporarily lifting the visa requirements to attract more tourists, as for example Egypt has done for a specific number of locations in the country. This means that if Vietnam indeed decides to allow foreign flights again starting 1 July, applying for a Vietnam visa will still be mandatory. The visa can be applied for online and costs £49.95. Unlike the old Visa on Arrival, the online visa does not require additional fees to be paid after arrival in Vietnam. The extra costs are one of the reasons why the Vietnamese embassy strongly advises against using the Visa on Arrival.