With no virus-related deaths and only 270 detected cases, Vietnam has largely avoided the COVID-19 chaos that has hit other Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand and Singapore. The country has been largely open for domestic business since April 23, with commercial flights and trains in operation along with restaurants, hotels, and shopping centers. Now, it aims to become the first nation in Southeast Asia to reopen for international tourism, beginning with travelers from South Korea and China. No projected opening date for travelers from other countries has been set.
Skift reported that Vietnam Airlines hopes to resume international flights as early as June and is working to create a regional travel bubble with service to South Korea and China, which account for 55 percent of the country’s global traffic. Officials remain concerned about monitoring passengers on incoming flights to ensure they are from the area where the flight originated and not transferring from a highly infected location, and are working to address this issue. But, if all goes as planned, the country’s major airports could resume international business within the next few weeks. “The government’s done a great job in re-instilling confidence in people and, seeing that the situation is now under control, people want to move about,” said Michael Piro, CEO of Indochina Capital and the owner of multiple restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, to Skift.
The country’s reopening to tourism is in large part a testament to its government’s prompt response to the virus. In late February, Vietnam began requiring international arrivals from infected areas to quarantine for 14 days and tightened its visa approval process for South Koreans and Europeans, who make up a large portion of the country’s international tourism market. The government has closely monitored the development and containment of the virus in neighboring countries and shut down overseas travel entirely on March 12.