After 18 months of closure, Vietnam will begin reopening to international tourists in October.
Vietnam will initially reopen Phu Quoc — a tropical island off Vietnam’s southern coast — for a six-month trial period to boost the economy.
Vietnam has closed to all visitors as the nation hoped to keep COVID-19 outside the country. Throughout most of 2020, they successfully managed to keep the virus at bay.
However, the more transmissible Delta variant entered the nation this summer and created lockdowns and economic harm.
The Proposed Reopening
According to a statement from Vietnam’s Tourism authorities, Phu Quoc will reopen next month for fully vaccinated travelers. The reopening will be similar to the sandbox schemes in Thailand, where certain islands reopen for fully vaccinated tourists.
Travelers will also require a negative PCR test to visit the island. The authorities also suggested travelers could enter via the island via chartered or commercial flights.
Vietnam will fully vaccinate all residents on Phu Quoc before reopening. The tourism ministry said the island hasn’t reported any community infections for a while and the island has sufficient quarantine and treatment facilities if any issues arise.
Unlike in Thailand, where you can travel around the nation after you’ve spent 14 days in the sandbox schemes — the government hasn’t made it known if travelers can do the same in Vietnam. It’s likely that more details will arise in the coming weeks.
The Impact On Vietnam’s Economy
Vietnam’s Tourism and Culture Minister stated, “The prolonged pandemic has seriously hurt the tourism industry.”
Over 18 million foreign arrivals visited Vietnam in 2019. That brought 31 billion dollars of revenue into the Vietnamese economy, and that equates to 12 percent of GDP. Unfortunately, the border closures wiped all international tourism revenue away from Vietnam in 2020.
And 2021 isn’t any different. In fact, it’s gotten worse for Vietnam as lockdowns hamper domestic travel, something that has boosted the Vietnamese economy in the past 18 months.
Economic figures show retail sales down by 33.7 percent, exports down by 5.4 percent, and industrial output down by 7.4 percent. Like many nations that pursued — often very successfully — a zero COVID-19 strategy, Vietnam is starting to rethink its strategy.
Australia successfully pursued a zero-COVID strategy. But the Delta variant has changed Australia’s mindset and promoted border reopenings and a plan to live with the virus.
The Current COVID-19 Situation In Vietnam
Vietnam is currently suffering from record cases of COVID-19. The current 7-day average in Vietnam is 12,767, which has doubled since July. Most of the current infections are in Ho Chi Minh City, a city currently in lockdown.
However, Vietnam has vaccinated 11.4 percent of its population. Therefore, the country remains vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks, deaths, and ongoing lockdowns. Nonetheless, with the Vietnamese government fully vaccinating Phu Quoc residents, this shouldn’t be an issue here.
Vietnam’s reopening is a clear sign that Southeast Asia is beginning to rethink its border closures. As much of the world — including North America and Europe — reopen to vaccinated tourists, Southeast Asia lags behind on vaccines and border reopenings.
Singapore and Thailand have taken the first steps to reopen, but most of the Far East remains closed. Perhaps, after 18 months of closure, this part of the world is finally reopening.
However, with such slow vaccination rates, travelers will likely have to wait until 2022 before they can visit Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam in a manner that even comes close to normality. Still, it’s good news for the travel industry either way.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com