Insights from hospitality insiders in Ho Chi Minh City has for the first time cleared the nagging question of why room rates for isolation are much higher than those at ordinary accommodations.
Though finally reopening its borders again in October to meet mounting traveling demand, Vietnam has acted cautiously and requires all passengers on commercial flights to Vietnam to acquire negative COVID-19 test results within three days of boarding. It is also compulsory for such passengers to submit information on their selected quarantine hotels.
Travelers can pick a hotel from a list of quarantine accommodations already approved by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee.
The rates range between VND1.25 million (US$54) and VND5 million ($216), including three meals a day, and might be hiked up depending on what extra service options the guests demand.
“It costs hotels a great deal of resources, including personnel and expenses related to infrastructure and services, to act as quarantine facilities,” said a hotel manager who called herself Ha.
Seemingly easy but a tough call
Ha is in charge of operations at an approved four-star quarantine hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.
Her hotel must follow through a set of strict criteria as per regulations by the municipal Department of Health, Ha said.
For example, it has to cease operating commercially and to serve quarantine purposes solely when a guest undergoing isolation there.
The hotel should meet certain conditions to facilitate the safe transport of quarantined guests and their waste, as well as setting up a 24/7 security booth and dedicating a whole floor to accommodating the quarantined guests.
Guests who check in on different days must stay on different floors, the hotel manager said.
Ha added that her hotel must also arrange the so-called ‘buffer rooms,’ literally empty rooms staying in between quarantine rooms.
Service staff members who have direct contact with the guests must self-quarantine for 14 days and are allowed to only go home once their guests have tested negative at the end of their isolation.
A representative of the five-star quarantine hotel Holiday Inn seconded those requirements, adding that the hotel has had to add new infrastructure facilities, offer medical training to its staff, and follow the health department’s strict criteria on hygiene standards, disinfection, and quarantine procedures.
“Because of such stringent disease prevention measures, room prices at quarantine hotels are not as cheap as those charged by normal ones,” Ha said.
The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism has acknowledged the efforts of the hotels to double as quarantine facilities.
“Becoming a quarantine accommodation might sound easy enough but in reality it is a tough call for such hotels,” said Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, deputy director of the department.
“If you want to service quarantined guests, you must abide by several medical requirements of the health department.”
Expanding the network
Hoa said that the city currently has 10 hotels approved for quarantine purposes, of which two are specifically dedicated to cabin crews while the remaining eight are used for ordinary travelers permitted to enter Vietnam, with the number of rooms available totaling 940.
The department, however, has proposed adding another 16 hotels boasting 1,025 rooms, of which 15 are in the budget range with ratings of one or two stars, she revealed.
Authorities are calling on affordable hotels across the city to register as a quarantine facility.
That should offer travelers more options price-wise while balancing out the current list, which only comprises three- to five-star hotels.
“Authorities are inspecting and reviewing these hotels on whether they can meet quarantine criteria on infrastructure, staff training, and medical care,” Hoa said.
“Once they’ve met all conditions, we will submit a list to the municipal People’s Committee to approve them as official quarantine facilities.”