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Vietnam to test reopening starting with Phu Quoc Island

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PHOTO: Phu Quoc island is set to be the first destination in Vietnam to reopen. (via Paul Szewczyk unsplash)

Vietnam was one of the earliest countries to lockdown due to Covid-19, a strategy that had done it well until a massive outbreak in April, just like Thailand. And now, also like Thailand, they are looking to relaunch their tourism industry after close to two years of closures. Vietnam is now looking to reopen in late November, starting with the popular resort island of Phu Quoc.

The island aims to reopen to inoculated foreign tourists starting November 20 with charter flights bringing fully vaccinated international travellers to the tropical paradise. Phu Quoc is known for beautiful white sand beaches and clear blue waters on the coast with jungles and mountains inland.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vietnamese government was angling to turn the island in the Gulf of Thailand about 10 km off the coast of Cambodia into a beach-going tourist hot spot along the lines of Bali and Phuket. Phu Quoc had already been drawing massive crowds with figures from 2019 reporting US $18 billion generated by approximately 670,000 international travellers.

Like Thailand’s reopening, Vietnamese authorities hope to attract travellers from countries that are low risk for Covid-19 infections, citing parts of Europe, the Middle East, Northeast and Southeast Asia, North America, and Australia as their target market.

The reopening was originally planned for October, then postponed due to low local vaccination rates, with only about 20% of Vietnam’s 100 million people having received the full inoculation. But the Vietnam economy is suffering after closed borders and some of the strictest lockdowns in the world, with almost no commercial flights being allowed to land in Vietnam since the beginning months of last year.

So Vietnam is dipping its toe in the water with Phu Quoc, hoping to bring in a few vaccinated tourists next month and, if successful, slowly trickle in another 5,000 foreigners on charter flights between December and the end of March.

Vietnamese authorities hope that the experimental reopening of Phu Quoc Island will pave the way to reopening other popular tourist destinations like Ha Long Bay and Hoi An in the near future, but no timeline or details have been set yet.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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