HOI AN, VIETNAM - APRIL 24: Tourists, mostly domestic, take a boat tour through Thu Bon river on April 24, 2021 in Hoi An, Vietnam. Hoi An, a UNESCO heritage site, once a hot spot favorited by foreign tourists, has had to undergo the tribulations of survival amid Covid-19 impacts. The number of domestic visitors has begun rising thanks to the effort of key players in the tourism sector by decreasing airfares, entrance fees and adding more tourism products that fit the domestic tourist market, such as opening pedestrian zones, night markets, craft villages and traditional games. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images).

Vietnam is planning to reopen key tourist destinations to vaccinated visitors from countries deemed a low COVID-19 risk from December, the government said on Wednesday, October 6, ahead of a full resumption targeted for June next year.

Vietnam imposed tight border controls at the start of the pandemic in an effort to keep out COVID-19, with some initial success, but that harmed its burgeoning tourism sector, which typically accounts for about 10% of gross domestic product.

Last month, the country announced it would reopen the resort island Phu Quoc for vaccinated travelers from November.

Fom December, Vietnam will also allow tourists from approved countries to visit UNESCO world heritage site Halong Bay and Hoi An, the highlands town of Dalat and beach destination Nha Trang. It is not yet clear which countries will meet the criteria.

“We are only open when it’s truly safe,” the government said in a statement.

“We are moving step by step, cautiously but flexibly to adapt to real situations of the pandemic.”

The move follows similar steps taken by neighboring Thailand, which will next month expand locations in its pilot scheme to allow vaccinated visitors.

Foreign arrivals to Vietnam fell to 3.8 million last year down from 18 million in 2019, when tourism revenue was $31 billion, equivalent to 12% of GDP.

The country is trying to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations, with just 13% of its 98 million people inoculated so far, one of the lowest rates in Asia.