Vietnam has decided to open its tourism island of Phu Quoc for vaccinated visitors from October for a six-month-long pilot.
The tourists must arrive from select countries, be fully vaccinated, get a pre-departure PCR-RT test, and buy a package from a tour operator. International visitors are not allowed to roam freely.
Here’s an excerpt from the Vietnam Plus:
Under the tourism sector’s plan, Phu Quoc will receive tourists for six months in two phases on a trial basis, starting from October. In the first phase, lasting three months, the island is expected to welcome 3,000-5,000 international visitors per month via charter flights, with visitors’ activities limited to certain sites.
Depending on the outcome of the first phase, the pilot programme would be scaled up to welcome 5,000-10,000 passengers per month on commercial flights, and the sites opened to foreign visitors might be extended
Under the plan, visitors from countries with high safety in COVID-19 prevention and control in regions such as Northeast Asia, Europe, the US, the Middle East, and Australia will need to book package tours of travel agencies if they want to go to Phu Quoc.
To enter the country, visitors must meet certain requirements including a certificate of full vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 not more than 12 months from the date of their release from hospital to the date of entry. They also have to present a negative COVID-19 testing certificate issued by authorised agencies within 72 hours before departure.
Visitors are also required to install the Vietnam Safe Travel or the Healthy Vietnam apps and make a medical declaration through those apps. In case visitors do not meet all the necessary requirements, they may be denied entry and bear the cost of returning to their home country or transit.
Visitors have to travel on their designated cars in line with the approved schedule. Service staff, drivers, guides and tourists are required to wear masks throughout the journey.
You have to give Vietnam credit for trying to reopen their tourism sector first with the Phu Quoc, but this is poised to be an utter failure.
The government hopes to attract 3,000 to 5,000 tourists per month at the beginning and 10,000 by the end of the pilot. However, the tourists need to buy tour and travel packages, and cannot freely travel around the island. They are instead imprisoned in their luxury hotels for the duration of their stay.
Who is going to arrange these charter flights and from where to Phu Quoc?
This plan will not succeed. Even Phuket that was expected to welcome 100,000 tourists in the first three months of the Sandbox program, will only reach one-third of that. Good luck attracting even 5,000 international tourists to the island during the six months long pilot.
Officials that come up with these crazy plans should be realistic. Visitors are not willing to come unless they feel welcomed and are not burdened with all requirements of what they can do, when, and where.
Just look at the international visitor numbers to Koh Samui island in Thailand that has welcomed them since mid-July. Total of 674 arrivals in the past two months. I doubt that Phu Quoc will be more “popular.”
The Vietnam government’s goal in the mid-2010s was to follow Thailand’s model and make a Phu Quoc of their tourism island, copying what took place a decade or two earlier in Phuket. The government planned to allow tourists to stay on the island for an extended period.
The Phu Quoc is fine to visit for a long weekend part of the greater Vietnam or Asian itinerary. However, there isn’t much there to warrant flying 12 to 20 hours with stops from even Europe or the Americas.
I have been to Phu Quoc two or three times and stayed at the JW Marriott twice and at the InterContinental once. I also sent my brother there for his honeymoon.