By Van Ngoc – Translated by Kim Khanh
Da lat nha trang
The one-kilometer pedestrian zone spanning Phan Boi Chau to Dong Hai streets will open from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as well as holidays, according to the provincial People’s Committee.
The launch of the pedestrian zone is part of authorities’ efforts to diversify tourist services and develop the local night-time economy.
From April 23 to May 2, the central province will host a tourism week with a range of activities including a street carnival, street music shows and traditional boat racing on Nhat Le River to attract tourists and improve revenues after more than a year of Covid-19 impacts.
Quang Binh, a popular tourist attraction, is home to UNESCO heritage site Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and often referred to as the “Kingdom of Caves” as it boasts many limestone caves including Son Doong, the world’s largest.
In July 2020, the government approved a master plan for night-time economy development in the country, allowing major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang as well as other tourist destinations like Hoi An, Hue, Da Lat and Phu Quoc to pilot night-time services from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Hanoi, HCMC, Quang Ninh, Hue and Hoi An are among those now piloting night-time services.
Rowers are set to compete across 20 categories for a distance of 2,000 metres for both men and women.
In the canoeing and kayaking events, both male and female players are to participate in 36 categories of three distances, including 200 metres, 500 metres, and 1,000 metres.
Nguyen Thi Hoi An, deputy director of Da Nang’s Department of Culture and Sports, said the leading athletes participating in the tournament will be selected for the national team as they compete in the upcoming international tournaments, including the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which will be held in the nation later this year.
The tournament has been organised by the Vietnam Canoeing, Rowing and Sailing Federation alongside Da Nang’s Department of Culture and Sports, with the event scheduled to close on April 29.
Quang Nam Province, home to UNESCO heritage sites Hoi An ancient town and My Son sanctuary, is pending government green light to become the first locality to welcome foreign tourists carrying Covid-19 vaccine passports.
Dinh Hai, former director of the Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the central province is capable of meeting traffic infrastructure, health service and tourism demands implicit in welcoming vaccinated foreign tourists. “Quang Nam has Chu Lai International Airport and some large resorts in South Hoi An.”
He proposed only welcoming tourists to two cordoned off resorts in Duy Xuyen District or Nui Thanh District in the province, which neighbors Da Nang City. They along with resort staff would be strictly supervised to avoid the risk of spreading the virus to the community.
Phan Xuan Thanh, president of the Quang Nam Tourism Association, said: “This is a competition and if we do not take the initiative, we will lag behind other countries.”
“Foreign tourists will stay in a separate area, just play golf or use tourism services there and would not travel to other localities,” Thanh added.
Associate Professor Pham Trung Luong, former head of the Hanoi-based Institute for Tourism Development Research, has a more cautious perspective on the pilot project. He said Vietnam should discuss with other countries a uniform procedure for recognizing vaccine passports and Covid-19 tests.
“Currently, countries around the world are using different Covid-19 vaccines with different testing procedures, so it is necessary to ensure that these certificates are suitable to Vietnam. The nation also needs to build a system to detect fake vaccine passports, which are cropping up in some countries.”
Luong added that the most ideal condition for Vietnam to reopen its door to international tourists would be when the country gains herd immunity. “While herd immunity not yet achieved, potential Covid-19 outbreaks are more likely, even when hosting foreign tourists in cordoned off areas.”
Under the vaccine passport pilot project outlined by Quang Nam authorities, arriving foreign tourists must have a vaccine passport (documented proof of two shots of vaccination) and a certificate from medical agencies showing negative Covid-19 test results, and only stay in cordoned off resorts. They will be tested for Covid-19 from once to twice.
The project will have visitors entering Vietnam on tours organized by international travel agencies. During the first phase proposed to start in July, Quang Nam authorities are expected to welcome visitors from South Korea and countries that have contained the outbreaks.
The group of tourists will arrive on a charter flight at Chu Lai Airport and be taken straight to resorts in Duy Xuyen District or Nui Thanh District for a maximum stay of five days to play golf, visit casinos or enjoy sea tourism services.
Under the plan, they will be exempt from centralized quarantine. As per Health Ministry protocol, currently, foreign passengers entering the country must be sent to centralized quarantine facilities for 14 days.
Due to the closure of the borders as a pandemic safety measure, the number of international visitors to Vietnam was only 3.7 million in 2020, down 80 over 2019.
Vietnam stopped all international commercial flights in March 2020. International visitors entering the country since are mainly experts, high-tech workers, investors and foreigners working on national projects.
* Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng has said that China-US relations should be put back on track.
* India reported on Thursday 314,835 new cases of the coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily increase recorded anywhere, while Japan is expected to issue a third state of emergency on Tokyo and three western prefectures that could last for about two weeks.
* Russia will issue electronic visas with a streamlined application procedure to attract more foreign tourists, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.
* More than 200 million shots of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States as of Wednesday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). US President Joe Biden announced the country has hit 200 million COVID-19 shots, a target he had set out to meet by the end of April.
* European countries prepared to start using Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and speed up their vaccination campaigns after Europe’s drug regulator backed the shot and deliveries started trickling in after a week-long pause.
* New Zealand and Australian foreign ministers on Thursday discussed ways to continue and deepen bilateral cooperation to “meet the shared challenges facing our region.”
* At least 78 Taliban militants were killed in various operations conducted by Afghan government forces in the past 24 hours, according to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense on Thursday.
* A senior US State Department official said on Wednesday that the second round Vienna talks over the Iran nuclear deal “made some progress,” but important disagreements still existed between the United States and Iran.
* Police clashed with protesters in Berlin as they tried to disperse a rally against the lockdown, as parliament approved a law to give Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government more powers to fight a third wave.
* Malaysia’s government enacted a new emergency law allowing it to use funds derived from oil and gas contributions to pay for vaccine procurement, as it looks to ramp up its COVID-19 vaccination programme.
* Two Australian states urged staff and guests in COVID-19 quarantine hotels to get tested immediately and fully self-isolate, launching investigations into three suspected cases of travellers contracting the virus from other residents.
* Argentina is going through its “worst moment” of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health minister said, as deaths from the virus hit 60,000 amid a sharp second wave that has forced the country to re-impose some lockdown measures.
* Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday that his government will strengthen surveillance actions on the country’s southern border in order to offer more protection to migrants, especially minors.
* Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented on Wednesday a “roadmap” for the further reopening of his country’s economy and social life in May. Greece has been in a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown since Nov. 7, 2020, which is now being gradually eased.
* South African researchers hope to next week resume a study using JNJ’s vaccine to immunize healthcare workers, one of the scientists leading the programme said.
* Ecuador implemented a nighttime curfew and other mobility restrictions as a spike in coronavirus cases again overwhelms hospitals in the Andean country, which in 2020 experienced one of the region’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks.
‘Vaccine passport’ is seen as an effective strategy to recover international tourism service, however it’s needed to balance the benefit on the nation and how it affects to human.
Lack of concrete regulations is hampering Vietnam from reopening its borders to foreign tourists despite the country has successfully contained the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
|Medical examination for passengers at Noi Ba international airport. Photos: Pham Hung|
The comment was released by Tran Trong Kien, Chairman of the National Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), when the country’s tourism sector is seen sluggish while some countries, including Thailand, are pushing ahead either with real vaccine passport or allowing vaccinated visitors to skip quarantine.
Kien told Hanoitimes that the state management agencies need to set up a roadmap and criteria to receive international guests as well as building standards on Covid-19 vaccination and examination before flights and after entering Vietnam.
He said Maldives has successfully reopened its door to travel, making a fruitful tourism season. In this nation of islands, visitors are required to book air tickets and make test of PCR 72 hours before departure.
“The reopening of borders to international travel and tourism will not only need efforts from business community, but also require policymakers to build concrete regulations – an essential move for businesses,” Kien said.
Insiders have said that the global economy has declined in 2020, but the Vietnam’s economy still grew 2.4% thanks to its successful control of Covid-19 pandemic. The country’s growth rate is predicted to reach 6.5% this year – this figure has lured foreign firms to travel the country while seeking opportunities to develop business.
Many travel agencies have recently organized programs to bring foreign investors and experts to the country under the form of charter flight, an unscheduled flight that is not part of a regular airline routing, in which people rent the entire aircraft and can determine departure/arrival locations and times.
Vietravel has rented the whole flight KE 683 of Korean Air to carry leading experts and senior managers from the UK, Sweden, Poland, German, Canada, the US and Spain to Vietnam. Meanwhile, the WorldTrans has brought Oversea Vietnamese businesspeople from Dallas, a city in the US state of Texas.
Some other companies, including Viet Foot Travel, Flamingo Redtour and Sun Smile Travel, have recently offered a package of tourism products targeting mainland China and its Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
Director of Viet Foot Travel Pham Duy Nghia told Hanoitimes that in comparison with the organization of domestic tours, bringing foreign experts into Vietnam makes higher profit.
He said in 2019, the tourism industry accounted for 12% of the country’s GDP, in which the volume of international visitors stood at only 17% but occupied over 50% of revenue – thanks to the fact that each foreign visitor spent US$673 on average while domestic visitor only $61.
“A foreign expert entering Vietnam helps the country make a profit ten times higher than that of domestic one. The source of foreign visitors will save the tourism businesses when the Covid-19 pandemic is not over yet,” Nghia said.
General Director of Flamingo Redtours Travel Company Nguyen Cong Hoan said although travel companies have set up scenarios to receive international tourists after the Covid-19 pandemic is controlled, what these businesses need most right now is a set of standards guiding businesses to welcome international visitors and ensuring safety, but not too strict “because if visitors are not comfortable, they do not want to come to Vietnam,” Hoan said.
|International guests make check-in proceedures at Noi Bai international airport in Hanoi.|
‘Vaccine passport’ – an effective strategy?
Vietnam is carefully studying ‘vaccine passport’ – a strategy has been seen as the most effective way to recover international tourism service in many countries over the world.
According to Deputy Minister of Health Truong Quoc Cuong, the issue of ‘vaccine passport’ has been discussed by policymakers but decision has not been given “because we need to balance the benefit on the nation and how it affects to human.”
“The benefit is to open door to economic growth while the risk is that we might still get infected in the community. This is not a simple issue so we must take it step by step,” Cuong said.
Among the recent entries to Vietnam, a number of people has already had a ‘vaccine passport’. However, the country has not had any changes in measures of pandemic prevention and control and isolation methods to vaccinated people.
According to current regulations, people with ‘vaccine passport’, which certificates two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, still have to be isolated for 14 days and take two tests as usual.
Director of the Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health Dang Quang Tan said that the entry and exit using ‘vaccine passport’ need to have QR codes to confirm their certification of vaccination or present documents relevant to Covid-19 vaccination from the competent authority of their country or territory.
He said the pandemic in Vietnam has been well controlled, making a very low infection rate. However, the rate of vaccinated people is not high while the community immunity is low, existing the risk of infection and outbreaks when people with Covid-19 virus enter the country.
“The virus is constantly mutated, so vaccines may be ineffective or less effective against new variants. The protective effect of vaccines is also very different, ranging from 66 – 96%, so there is still risks of infection and transmission.
In addition, the duration of immunity is not so clear that it is difficult to determine the application of ‘vaccine passport’ validity.”
Tran Dac Phu, a senior advisor at the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre, said Vietnam could combine the application of ‘vaccine passport’ and SARS-CoV-2 negative test result to ease the isolation period.
He said the Vietnam’s number of vaccinated people is not as high as that of many countries but it has effectively applied preventive measures. “Therefore, it is needed to continue such measures, especially 5Ks (in Vietnamese) Khau trang (facemask)- Khu khuan (disinfection) – Khoang cach (distance) – Khong tu tap (no gathering) – Khai bao y te (health declaration) to live safely with the coronavirus in the new normal.