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Travel firms all agog about vaccinated foreigners visiting Phu Quoc

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With Phu Quoc Island green-lighted to trial the vaccine passport, many travel firms are seeing it as a lifesaver for the pandemic-bashed tourism industry.

“It’s completely feasible,” said Nguyen Tien Dat, CEO of Hanoi-based tourism company AZA Travel.

He was speaking with VnExpress International about the reopening of Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang to vaccinated foreign tourists.

He noted that fellow Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia have been doing this to revive their hit-hard tourism industries.

He said Phu Quoc was relatively isolated from the mainland as also a famous tourist hotspot, so the island would be an ideal site to implement the vaccine passport pilot project. If successful, it could be expanded to other tourist destinations, he added.

“During the trial phase, vaccinated foreigners should be only allowed at sequestered resorts to limit contact and reduce the risk of infections; and we should welcome tourists from countries and territories that have controlled well the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Dat’s comments came in the wake of the Politburo, the main decision-making body of the Communist Party, calling earlier this month for vaccine passports to be trialed so that foreigners could visit some tourist destinations that have contained the pandemic, like Phu Quoc Island.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh urged the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to pilot the vaccine passport scheme soon towards bringing international visitors back to Phu Quoc so that Vietnam’s tourism could recover in the last months of the year.

“The tourism industry might be entering peak summer tourist season at this time; however, the fourth coronavirus wave has dashed all hopes of travel firms and the pilot project to reopening international tourism in Phu Quoc sparks new hopes for tourism operators,” Dat said.

Echoing Dat, Tran The Dung, CEO of HCMC-based Fiditour, said the pilot plan to welcome vaccinated foreigners back to Phu Quoc should be implemented right away so that the nation can catch up with regional peers.

Thailand plans to reopen Phuket on July 1, allowing fully vaccinated tourists from countries like Germany, the U.K. and U.S. to visit the island without having to quarantine themselves. Indonesia is expected to welcome tourists back to Bali Island, also in July.

Dung noted that to reopen international tourism in Phu Quoc, it is necessary that all residents on the island have to be fully vaccinated; and the same condition should apply to domestic tourists to the island as a mandatory safety measure.

Prioritize vaccination

Kien Giang Chairman Lam Minh Thanh told VnExpress International that the province will propose that the government prioritizes vaccination for the island’s 100,000 residents so that it can receive foreigners back by September or October this year.

Visitors to the island must be fully vaccinated, failing which they will be quarantined and only allowed to visit isolated resorts, Thanh said.

He admitted that the current biggest challenge is the scarce supply of Covid-19 vaccines. With vaccine manufacturers insisting on negotiating exclusively with governments, it becomes difficult for other agencies to take procurement initiatives.

“The key point in opening up international tourism is that all residents of the island must be fully vaccinated to reach herd immunity,” he said.

Dung said his company was working with travel partners in foreign countries to develop tourism products for welcoming vaccinated international visitors to Phu Quoc Island and other tourist destinations as and when the government approves the move.

His company is considering promoting resort tourism and other types of green tourism, highlighting the environmental protection of islands and forests of Phu Quoc, Dung said.

Travel firms have called on the government to prioritize those working in the industry for vaccination against Covid-19 towards expediting revival of the tourism industry.

The government had closed national borders and canceled all international flights in March last year. Only Vietnamese repatriates, foreign experts, diplomats, investors and highly-skilled workers are allowed in with stringent conditions.

Due to border closures and travel restrictions, Vietnam recorded a 79 percent year-on-year decline in the number of foreign visitors in 2020, according to official data.

Vietnam has been carrying out a mass vaccination campaign since March, under which more than 150,300 people have been fully vaccinated with two shots.

By Nguyen Quy – VnExpress.net – June 26, 2021

Travel firms all agog about vaccinated foreigners visiting Phu Quoc
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