Ho Chi Minh City has been ready for welcoming foreign travelers during the coming Christmas season after nearly two years of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the city has now been qualified for tourism reopening, said local travel authorities.
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If the plan goes on as scheduled, the city will reopen tourism to foreigners sooner than its initial forecast, which aimed to receive international travelers from early next year. Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, director of the municipal Department of Tourism, released the information at a recent meeting on tourism recovery with leaders of Ho Chi Minh City and representatives of embassies, consulates, and foreign news agencies in Vietnam.
Before the pandemic hit the country in early 2020, Ho Chi Minh City is among large tourism hubs in Vietnam that welcomed more than 8.6 million international visits in 2019, accounting for 50 percent of the country’s total foreign arrivals and contributing 11 percent to its gross regional domestic product (GRDP), Hoa said.
Over the past two years, the country has applied strict COVID-19 social distancing measures and the city’s tourism industry has been hibernating, with many staff having to find other jobs to make a living, the official said.
Since early October this year, the central government has eased such restrictions and reopened the economy under a new strategy of living safely with the coronavirus, targeting at both driving back the pandemic and bolstering economic growth via various measures including speeding up COVID-19 vaccine coverage.
As Ho Chi Minh City has almost achieved the milestone of 100 percent first-dose coverage for its adult population while the second-shot vaccination rate has topped 90 percent, it has met one requisite for restoring tourism, Hoa said.
The healthcare system has been improved, in terms of human resources, medical equipment, and actual experience, to more effectively cope with the virus.
Infections, severe cases, and deaths have generally decreased compared to those several months ago, despite positive cases and fatalities having gradually climbed again since mid-October, according to the tourism department.
The local healthcare system has no longer been overwhelmed as before.
In order to make tourism reopening a success, travel service providers must have all their staff fully vaccinated and ensure their strict compliance with epidemic prevention regulations, Hoa emphasized.
All accommodation providers must arrange temporary quarantine rooms or sites for suspected COVID-19 cases, she added.
“With such conditions, I believe Ho Chi Minh City will be ready to welcome back international tourists during the coming Christmas season as well as the winter, New Year, and Lunar New Year holidays, among others,” Hoa told the meeting.
General director of Saigontourist Nguyen Huu Y Yen said that Ho Chi Minh City is fully qualified to welcome international tourists right now, along with five other localities, namely Kien Giang, Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Da Nang, and Quang Ninh, which have been allowed by the central government to reopen tourism to international visitors on a trial basis.
Tourism infrastructure and tourism service providers are ready for tourism resumption, Yen said.
The key issue is designated agencies should promptly clarify specific regulations related to immigration, including vaccine passports, COVID-19 testing and others, for international visitors so that travel firms can timely prepare and introduce tours to their customers, he proposed.
Ho Chi Minh City will play an important role in Vietnam’s tourism recovery efforts as most major travel firms offering services for foreign tourists are based in the city, besides Hanoi, Tran The Dung, general director of travel firm Fiditour, commented.
The city’s tourist industry is refreshing its existing places of interest and offering new tourist products, including the new attractions in Binh Chanh and Hoc Mon Districts, to both domestic and foreign travelers, Hoa said.
After managing to run tours to Can Gio and Cu Chi Districts recently, travel service providers are accelerating their preparations for fully reopening tourism to international visitors, said Duong Anh Duc, deputy chairman of the municipal administration.