Hurdles remain for tourism sector as new COVID-19 rules fuel controversy

VOV.VN - Major travel firms have expressed their concerns about the Ministry of Health’s latest COVID-19 rules, saying Vietnam will find it difficult to attract foreign visitors as of March 15 unless the policy is revised.

Local travel firms are eager to receive an influx of foreign tourists as soon as Vietnam reopens all borders to international tourism on March 15. However, new COVID-19 regulations issued by the Ministry of Health is giving them a hard time.

According to the latest rules, foreign visitors are required to undergo a 72-hour isolation in their place of accommodation and COVID-19 testing twice on the first and third days upon their arrival. The first 24-hour isolation is mandatory. If they wish to travel to other places, they will be tested three times within three days.

In addition, all tourists must have a negative PCR test result obtained within 72 hours of departure, instead of a rapid antigen test result as proposed by the tourism ministry.

Unvaccinated children under 12 years of age will not be permitted to leave their accommodation until they present a negative COVID-19 test for seven consecutive days.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism only suggested that travelers remain in their place of accommodation for 24 hours and be tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In the event that the result is negative then they will be subsequently able to travel freely.

A majority of travel firms said the latest regulations hinder tourism recovery efforts. Tran The Dung, general director of Fiditour JSC, said such strict measures will certainly prevent international tourists selecting Vietnam as a destination.

“Foreign tourists desire to visit a destination that boasts a friendly environment, and if Vietnam imposes such strict policy, there is no point in selecting this destination for holiday,” he analysed.

In addition, he said the new policy could also hinder Vietnamese people from travelling abroad, because they will be subject to isolation and regular medical check-ups upon returning from overseas trips.

Sharing Dung’s view, Bui Quoc Dai, deputy director of Anex Vietnam Travel and Trading Co. Ltd, said the Ministry of Health’s proposal is not feasible.

“The policy cannot apply to all foreign visitors, because they come from different countries and territories with different infection rates…..Implementing such measures means we are not ready to reopen the door as directed by the Prime Minister,” said Dai.

According to his analysis, most foreign tourists to Vietnam come from the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other Southeast Asian countries. They are often short-term visitors, selecting to stay for about four days. They will certainly not select Vietnam as their destination if the three-day quarantine policy is in place.

The request on COVID-19 injection certificates for tourists should also be researched carefully, said the Anex Vietnam representative.

“In several countries that are offering their own vaccines to children and the elderly, but these vaccines have yet to be recognised by Vietnam. In this case, are they allowed to enter Vietnam?”, Dai raised the question.

Tran The Dung, general director of Fiditour JSC, noted with a high vaccination rate, Vietnam boasts a great advantage compared to other countries in the region as it strives to achieve herd immunity among the local population. If Vietnam fails to take advantage of this then it could lose out to competitive markets in the region.