TIC sees merit in Phu Quoc travel bubble

HONG KONG, 9 August 2021: Hong Kong’s Travel Industry Council, a powerful travel agency lobby, says it supports proposals to open outbound travel to Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island as a possible travel bubble experiment.

First reported by the World and Vietnam Report news website, the TIC’s chairman Jason Wong expressed support for the idea during recent discussions with the Consul General of Vietnam in Hong Kong.

Consul General Pham Binh Dam and Jason Wong, chairman of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council.

TIC’s website displayed a photo of the meeting between Wong and the Consul General without providing a caption or summary of the business meeting.

However, based on the World and Vietnam Report’s online news, on 4 August, Wong welcomed efforts that would open the outbound travel market and remove obstacles to promote tourism and travel between Vietnam and Hong Kong.

Wong noted that Hong Kong’s tourism and related services industry faces tough circumstances with businesses facing bankruptcy or laying off workers.

TIC said that efforts to establish safe travel channels from mainland China and other countries to Hong Kong have not yet yielded results.

Efforts to increase the rollout of the vaccination programme should see Hong Kong innoculate around 70% of the population by September, which would open the door to travellers from mainland China. Commenting on reopening outbound tourism from the territory, Wong emphasised that the TIC would work closely with the Consulate General of Vietnam to promote the concept of a “travel bubble” between Hong Kong and the Vietnamese holiday island of Phu Quoc. 

“Phu Quoc is an ideal place to launch a pilot project if the two sides reach an agreement on isolation exemption and specific health measures,” the report quoted Wong.

Consul General Pham Binh Dam noted the “current situation requires industry associations to be proactive and propose possible solutions for government to consider… He recommended that a small scale pilot scheme could test the viability of a travel bubble.”

Phu Quoc island has been identified to trial a six-month vaccine passport programme that could start in October. Like Thailand’s Phuket Sandbox project, it would welcome fully vaccinated leisure travellers who could stay on the island without quarantine based on their vaccination status and negative PCR tests. Thailand received around 14,000 people during the first month of the sandbox scheme, from 1 to 31 July, falling well behind the target of 100,000 visits over three months July to September. Vietnam officials believe Phu Quoc can receive around 40,000 visitors per month if it can set up a similar scheme. However, success will depend on convincing airlines to serve the island destination with direct flights.

Currently, Vietnam is closed to international travellers with the exception of those travelling on official business with an approved agency or government department.

TIC said it would take the proposal forward through the hosting of online forums between the management agencies, associations and travel businesses from both two sides to share information and to facilitate and tourism recovery in the post-Covid-19 period.

Hong Kong lists Vietnam among high-risk Covid areas from which means travellers returning from Vietnam need to undergo 21-day hotel quarantine on arrival.

(Source: World and Vietnam Report; Tourism Industry Council).