Vietnam’s largest island likely to welcome foreign tourists back

Phu Quoc Island could soon allow foreign tourists in on a trial basis as part of the country's roadmap to resuming international tourism.

 

Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Trinh Thi Thuy said the tourism ministry has been working on a pilot plan to bring international tourists to select islands, with Phu Quoc among those considered.

The ministry has assigned the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism and Vietnam Tourism Association to work with Kien Giang authorities to bring foreign tourists to Phu Quoc, Vietnam's largest island off the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang.

Thuy said though the islands are relatively isolated from the mainland, there are people living there and domestic tourists visit them, and so the risks of community transmission must be taken into account while allowing international visitors back. "Tougher measures should be taken to prevent another outbreak of Covid-19."

Vietnam has just 26 cases patients still undergoing treatment and has managed to avoid deaths. There has been no community transmission in the last 49 days.

"We are working with the Health Ministry to develop a set of criteria to ensure safety for international visitors. The tourism industry only wants to receive visitors from countries where the disease has been controlled," Thuy added.

The tourism ministry is set to work with relevant ministries and agencies on air routes, visa issuance and lifting of travel restrictions for tourists from several countries and regions that have managed to control the pandemic.

Though Vietnam has yet to open its doors to international visitors, the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control had said at a meeting on May 28 that the tourism industry could pilot a plan to welcome foreign tourists to island destinations on a trial basis with strict safety measures in place to safeguard both them and locals.

The ministry is studying a plan to kick-start international tourism by reopening its doors to visitors from some select markets where the Covid-19 pandemic has been controlled such as Japan, South Korea and China and some high-spenders such as Australians and New Zealanders.

Phu Quoc, dubbed ‘pearl island’, has become a top tourist destination after it built an international airport in 2012 and the government rolled out a 30-day visa-free policy for foreigners in 2014.

The island received over five million visitors last year, up 30 percent from 2018, including 541,600 foreigners.

Vietnam has suspended international flights since March 25 and banned entry of foreign nationals except certain special categories since March 22.

The number of foreign visitors in the first five months was 3.73 million, a 48.8 percent year-on-year decline.

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