Phu Quoc’s reopening prompts new source market focus

Sao beach on Phu Quoc island, Kien Giang, Vietnam

Vietnam is eyeing up new markets as the island of Phu Quoc prepares to welcome again tourists in November.

At a webinar hosted by Delivering Asia Communications, industry players said plans are well underway to welcome double-vaccinated visitors in a similar scheme to Phuket’s sandbox.

Phu Quoc is working towards a November reopening to fully vaccinated travellers

This includes the current island-wide vaccination programme. Guidelines also state only hotels that meet certain criteria, such as size, can register to reopen.

Linh Le, principal and co-founder of Luxperia, said traditional markets for Phu Quoc were Russia, China and South Korea. However, Covid-19 has changed the game.

“As a result of the pandemic, the whole world is reassessing when and where to travel,” he said. “You have to consider the bilateral agreements countries have in place with regard to what vaccinations are accepted and quarantine restrictions on return.”

Le added that due to this, charter flights from Europe will play a key role in Phu Quoc’s recovery.

India will also be a key driver in countrywide recovery. Ken Atkinson, founder of Grant Thornton Vietnam, said this has been fuelled by recent diplomatic discussions.

He remarked: “The main target when Vietnam reopens is charter flights from India and trying to capture some of the Indian wedding market.”

Linh Bui, managing director of Sens Asia Travel, predicts the US, UK, Switzerland and Germany will show a fast rebound.

“These operators are requesting new products and updated pricing,” she said. “They’ve been really active working with us to come up with new ideas even though they know they can’t travel here right now.”

Jai Kishan, general manager of New World Phu Quoc Resort which opened in May, believes once regional borders relax, the island will see a shift towards short- and medium-haul travel. He said Hong Kong and Singapore will lead the pack.

However, recovery will be slow with global economies shattered and expendable income at an all-time low. “It will be two to three years before we’re back to 2019 levels,” said Kishan. “People’s income has dried up and purse strings have been tightened across the world.”

While visa-free travel will remain in place on Phu Quoc, Atkinson suggested this be rolled out nationwide. “The big question is if visa exemptions will continue. This will make Vietnam more competitive without the regulations of other countries.”

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