It is an exciting time to be living in Vietnam this spring semester as tourism is roaring back to pre-pandemic levels. The tourism industry was greatly impacted in Vietnam by COVID-19, especially with international arrivals (18 million visitors came to Vietnam in 2019, compared to 157,000 international tourists in 2021). Although international tourism reopened officially on March 15, 2022, in Vietnam, all COVID-19 testing requirements were dropped for international tourists on May 15, 2022. Tourists from China began returning back to Vietnam in mid-March of this year.

Tourism arrivals have skyrocketed this spring, growing 30 times compared to last year at the same time, although international arrivals are currently about 60% pre-pandemic arrivals. This is about half the number of international arrivals compared to Thailand (Vietnam typically compares itself to Thailand). Direct international flights have also increased with new and returning direct flights to San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, among other cities. Airports are busy and flights are full, and tourist attractions are packed.

Anecdotally, there has been a huge increase in the supply of restaurants, tours, and other businesses in Vietnam that cater to South Koreans, and I expect this trend to continue as South Korea continues to be a stronger market segment for international tourists. One of my recent tour guides states that the South Korean market is a major growth segment for Vietnam (flights are only 3 hours from Seoul), and many tour guides are now learning the Korean language in order to be able to communicate with Korean tourists.

A current challenge for international tourists to Vietnam is the visa process, as Vietnam is not competitive with other regional destinations, such as Thailand. Currently, international tourists are granted a 30-day tourism visa, but the government is looking at extending the visa to 45 days. For tourists from some European countries, Japan, and South Korea can stay in the country for 15 days without a tourist visa. This is not competitive as Malaysia waives visa requirements for 150+ countries and Thailand waves visa requirements for 68 countries. Industry leaders would greatly welcome a more accessible and welcoming visa process for international tourists.

Taken together, there is a sense of optimism for tourism in Vietnam this year!

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