|By Ho Quoc Tuan – Lecturer, Bristol University|
Figures from Vietnam’s General Statistics Office showed that only 3.8 million foreign visitors set their feet onto the nation’s land last year, a drop of nearly 80 per cent compared to 2019. Over 96 per cent of those who came to Vietnam, arrived in the first quarter last year when the coronavirus pandemic had yet to become a global threat.
These figures indicate how severe the damage to the region’s tourism sector was, as well as to relevant industries like aviation. In this context, scaling up the number of international visitors and simultaneously promoting inbound tours are both important to resurrect this industry.
Re-opening travel and international flights between nations have therefore become vital targets to several economies in 2021. The largest bottleneck to the efforts on re-opening national borders and luring in visitors is the isolation time required from visitors to ensure safety.
To reach the target that all airlines and authorities are working on entrance and exit formalities at airports could require precise information about the health status of each passenger, as well as whether they have been tested and vaccinated.
One of the initiatives to tackle this dilemma is the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass solution, a charge-free mobile app to help travellers easily and securely manage their travel in line with any government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information.
The IATA Travel Pass is expected to be rolled out in late March. Empowered by blockchain technology, the mobile app is supposed to help tackle three weaknesses that current health certificates are facing.
Firstly, it helps shirk forged documents on negative COVID-19 testing being found in many countries at present, particularly those using paper-based certificates, but not digital tools. Such fake certificates could be acquired easily in several countries.
Secondly, the IATA expects that the system could help international visitors not to be lost in the matrix of different entrance requirements that each country applies related to COVID-19.
Thirdly, the IATA Travel Pass could ease users’ minds as the threat of personal data leaking will be dramatically reduced. The IATA currently assumes that the data on each passenger’s COVID-19 health status will only be stored on the users’ mobiles and only accessed at airports for verification purposes. Other health records would remain private.
Assuming that the IATA Travel Pass solution will be running without a hitch, a bunch of issues would need to be fixed.
For instance, the credibility of the testing results in different countries as well as the trust about the safety levels for the community when allowing foreign visitors to enter the country. It also remains concerning, that nobody can be entirely sure whether foreign visitors, even with negative COVID-19 test results and vaccinations, are absolutely safe as the efficiency ratio of vaccinations never reaches 100 per cent.
There is always a trade-off between saving health and rescuing the economy in opening international flights. In the past, when Thailand decided to open its border gates and attract visitors, there were burning disputes about the move.
People at popular localities had concerns as foreign visitors came and left, and if one visitor was COVID-19 positive, the local community would suffer the most, but not travel firms, airlines, or the visitor. If having to choose between “keeping their meals” or “saving their health”, many would prefer the second option.
From another angle, vetoing international flights could not bring the assurance that no infection is spotted in the community as besides air routes, people can break into the country through border gates or waterways. Also, no one can be certain about the nonexistence of infections in the community. Considering this point, some people might go with keeping their meals.
The travel pass, thereby, is not the panacea to troubleshoot all these issues. However, this pass is the choice made by heads of nations based on the information provided thus far by doctors, scientists, and economists.
With consensus from all stakeholders, the issue remains anything but easy. Amid current complexities, all decisions are risky by nature. Most importantly, we need to have remedy plans ready that will work in case community infections return.
Nguồn: Vietnam Investment Review