In recent days, the gloomy tourism market became bustling when some Vietnamese travel agents offered the so-called vaccine tour, combining visits and vaccine shots, to the US. The tour has drawn the attention of customers, mostly high-income people, who called to inquire about it.
|This photo was taken early this year in the northern province of Quang Ninh's Ha Long Bay. Vaccination is needed to help travel agents overcome difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: kinhtedothi|
It is offered with a price of at least VND45 million (nearly US$2,000) for the one-way air trip from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to the US, covering an eight-day stay and one shot of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, according to Hong Ngoc Ha Travel Company.
The price of vaccine tour varies depending on the time of departure and kinds of vaccine, a representative from Kiwi Travel Company told The Hanoi Times that: “Our tours include costs of tickets and accommodation establishments, as well as pharmacies in the US,” he said.
The vaccine tours have attracted great attention around the community as Vietnam is facing the fourth wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, pushing vaccination an urgent task.
Local tour operators were excited when having found such a way to keep their businesses running amid the pandemic. Travel restriction and border closure as preventive measures against Covid-19 has negatively affected local travel businesses, especially the inbound market for a year and a half now.
The US is chosen as a safe destination for the vaccine tours as this country has policies to support Covid-19 vaccination for international visitors.
The country has provided free numerous high-quality vaccines for its population that is produced by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson - the world-leading pharmaceutical giants.
As of mid-May, almost 47% of American adults have got full vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The US President set the goal of having 70% of adults administered with at least one shot by July 4 - its Independence Day.
However, the HCMC’s tourism authorities have requested travel businesses to suspend vaccine tours to the US until early 2022, citing the impossibility of the tour that includes unexpected side-effects after being vaccinated in the US, in addition to having no return ticket.
Thang Tran, President of the New York-based Institute for Vietnamese Culture & Education (IVCE) told The Hanoi Times on the phone that it is impossible to launch the vaccine tours at this time.
According to the CDC, the US federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the US, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status. “Vietnamese people eligible for inoculation are those residing in the US currently,” he said.
“Some states of the US may not require residency for Covid-19 vaccination,” Thang said.
Chairman of Viking Travel Company Tran Xuan Hung said the number of fully vaccinated people is still low and Vietnam would lag behind many countries in terms of vaccination.
“The opportunity for Vietnamese travelers to go abroad is low and it is difficult for the outbound travel to resume as many expected,” Hung said.
When Vietnam can well control the disease, the inbound segment will be resumed soon,” he underlined. “Next step is the opportunity for the outbound market to recover.”
Businesses in need of vaccines
|Customers shop at BRGMart in Hanoi. Photo: Thanh Hai|
Travel is one among many businesses that are struggling to survive amid the Covid-19 outbreak. They are striving best effort to find out the way to rescue their business and employees as well.
The Vietnam Association of Retailers (AVR) has repeatedly requested the Ministry of Health to consider prioritizing vaccination for the retail workers who run the risk of getting infected.
According to the AVR, retail workers come into contact with millions of customers every day and at high risk of infection, especially given the transmission of the new virus strains in the fourth wave of the outbreak.
“We are willing to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for administering our employees,” Nguyen Thi Phuong, General Secretary of the AVR said. “Our employees should be on the priority list,” she added.
More than 100 members of the AVR are facing a shortage of human resources while numerous employees in supermarkets and shopping malls left the job for fear of acquiring Covid-19.
Other labor-intensive industries are also in need of vaccination.
Than Duc Viet, General Director of Garco 10 said: “Vaccination is a long-term and cost-efficient solution. In this regard, the business community is willing to help the Government in funding vaccine purchase.”
European business leaders are urging the Vietnamese Government to go further and faster, harnessing the power of private enterprise and allowing companies to vaccinate their own staff out of their own pocket.
Alain Cany, Chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) said the private sector, including foreign enterprises, can help speed up Vietnam’s vaccination efforts by providing both the world-leading equipment and the international expertise essential to a successful mass vaccination program.
He said EuroCham will support the Government’s ambitious target to vaccinate 75% of the population. This will be essential to unlocking the international trade and investment, which is critical to Vietnam’s economic growth, the latest announcement of the EuroCham noted.
According to the European chamber, this would reduce the burden on the State budget while also helping to accelerate the Government’s vaccination drive.
“While Vietnam’s borders are closed, other countries are rolling out vaccinations and re-opening their doors to the world. So there is now a real risk that Vietnam could fall behind unless it implements its own mass vaccination program at scale and pace,” Candy said to The Hanoi Times.
Vietnam has set the global standard for Covid-19 prevention. The challenge now is to match that success with an ambitious and accelerated mass vaccination program.
“If this can be achieved, there is no doubt that Vietnam will rebound and recover. This would also help to meet the government’s twin goals of protecting the population and boosting economic growth, according to the leader of EuroCham.