Thailand and Vietnam, two countries whose economies rely largely on tourism, are pushing to reopen their travel industries despite surges in coronavirus cases and outbreaks of the Delta variant.
Late last week, the Vietnamese government announced a reopening of the island of Phu Quoc to fully vaccinated overseas tourists, with the goal of attracting two to three million international visitors to the island by the end of the year. Alongside that move, the chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Nguyen Trung Khanh, said that efforts to vaccinate residents on the island would be a priority.
In 2019, Vietnam saw more than 18 million international tourists. But in a sign of the profound effect of the pandemic, overseas arrivals in the month of March 2020, as the coronavirus began to hit hard, dropped steeply, to only about 32 percent of the number in the same month a year earlier, according to Vietnamese tourism statistics.
While Vietnam did a good job of containing the virus in the initial stages of the pandemic, like many other countries it has struggled to contain the Delta variant this year. The country is recording a daily average of 12,724 new cases, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Only 4.9 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures.
Thailand is also set to welcome back fully vaccinated tourists, to Bangkok and other major tourism destinations, starting in October, according to Reuters. It is the second phase of a reopening plan that began over the past two months, with the reopening of places including the island of Phuket.
Thailand had nearly 40 million international visitors in 2019. Tourism accounts for about a fifth of the country’s economic activity, according to the International Monetary Fund, and the pandemic contributed to a drop of 6.1 percent in the country’s G.D.P. in 2020.
Thailand is reporting about 14,000 new daily cases, according to the country’s tourism authority, and there have been public protests about the government’s handling of the pandemic. In 2020, Thailand registered fewer than 100 Covid-related deaths, but the toll in 2021 already exceeds 12,000.