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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Travel firms find it hard to resume inbound tours

By Nguyen Nam

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HCMC – The regulations on visas and quarantine as well as the different anti-Covid-19 approaches of different cities and provinces nationwide make it tough for travel companies to restart inbound tours for international tourists.

Hoang Thi Phong Thu, chairwoman of Pegas Misr Vietnam Travel Co., Ltd, which specializes in inbound travel services, said the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s issuance of guidelines on inbound travel was a good sign for the local tourism sector.

However, some new regulations make life difficult for travel firms. For example, Russian visitors are no longer entitled to the visa waiver, except for those coming to Phu Quoc Island off Kien Giang Province.

Sharing the view, Le Van Son, vice chairman of the Nha Trang-Khanh Hoa Tourism Association, said foreign visitors to Phu Quoc could be exempted from the visa requirement, while those entering other parts of the country must apply for a visa, which is valid for no more than 15 days for each entry.

In addition, foreign visitors to Vietnam must stay at a centralized quarantine center for a week. After the mandatory quarantine, if they test negative for Covid-19, they can only participate in bubble tours and visit certain destinations, Thu added.

According to Bui Viet Thuy Tien, director of Asian Trails Company, which specializes in arranging Vietnam tours for European tourists, now that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has issued guidelines on the resumption of inbound tours, tour operators are awaiting specific rules from local authorities.

Moreover, if a tourist is found to be infected with the coronavirus, the remaining guests in the group would become direct contacts of the Covid-19 case. However, it is unknown who will pay the treatment fees for Covid-19 patients and the quarantine fees for those who come into close contact with positive cases.

Tien affirmed that local travel companies could not immediately bring in international guests as the pandemic trajectory remained unpredictable in Asia.

The number of source markets for provinces resuming inbound tours this month is also limited as they can receive guests flying only on charter flights.

Tien added that as Vietnam was determined to safely live with Covid-19 to help the economy recover, appropriate strategies should be worked out. She proposed not tracing and quarantining direct and indirect contacts of Covid-19 cases as all tourists are required to have proof of negative Covid-19 tests and vaccine passports prior to entry.

Nguyen Ngoc Toan, director of Image Travel & Events Co., Ltd, said many countries in the region, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Japan and the Philippines, have reopened their borders to international tourists. If Vietnam does not relax its requirements, it would lose guests to other markets, Toan noted.

Thu from Pegas Misr Vietnam said until the end of next month, the resumption of inbound tours might see positive results as partners would have more time to promote Vietnam’s reopening to international visitors and the Government might ease more restrictions.

Thu added that Pegas on September 6 wrote to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) applying for licenses for charter flights for Egas Ply and Nordwind Airlines but no licenses have been issued.

Currently, international tourists can enter Vietnam via charter or commercial flights. However, commercial flights have yet to be resumed, while it is hard to apply for a license for charter flights as CAAV cannot issue the licenses without the Government’s guidelines.

International travel firms are also finding it hard to sell tours as tourists are no longer exempted from visas for 15 days as before and must stay at an isolation area for a week and visit only certain destinations.

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