The Vietnamese government has green-lighted several proposals, including waiving visas for more nations, to revive the country’s troubled tourist industry.
The Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism have repeatedly called on the government to enact measures to ‘save’ the tourist industry, which has reported declining tourist arrival numbers for 12 months in a row, since May 2014.
Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng approved many propositions of the two agencies during a government meeting late last month, bringing about hopes that Việt Nam would soon be able to lure back international visitors.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has proposed scrapping visas for countries that are Việt Nam’s key tourism markets, or those it has strategic or comprehensive partnerships with, which has secured in-principle approval from the premier.
The countries that are likely to enjoy free-visa rules from Việt Nam are the UK, France, Germany and Spain, which have strategic partnerships with Vietnam; and Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the Southeast Asian country’s comprehensive partners, according to newswire Văn hóa (Culture) Online.
“Tourists from these countries will be given a 15-day stay for each entry over five years.”
Văn Hóa Online quoted VNAT chief Nguyễn Anh Tuấn as saying.
The visa waivers for the first group of countries are expected to take effect on July 1 this year, and the second group, July 1 next year, according to the VNAT director.
Việt Nam currently applies one-sided free-visa rules for seven countries, including Japan, South Korea, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia, and scraps visas for nine Southeast Asian countries including Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Starting next month, Việt Nam will also waive visas for tourists from Belarus, according to a resolution the government released earlier this month.
The waiver will be applied within five years, from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2020, with an allowed stay of 15 days for each entry.
Tourists from the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 72 percent of international arrivals to Việt Nam, followed by Europe (14 percent) and North America, according to a VNAT survey.
The government approval of the visa waiver proposal is seen by industry insiders as “an invitation to international tourists who love to explore Việt Nam,” and a boost to the country’s tourism.
The visa waivers granted to Russia, Japan, and South Korea have indeed paid off, as vacationers from these countries collectively made up 23.6 percent of Việt Nam’s tourist arrival numbers in 2014, according to the same VNAT data.
Việt Nam scrapped visas for Japan and South Korea in 2004, and the number of holidaymakers from these countries has since increased 2.4 times and 3.6 times, respectively.
The number of Russian tourists visiting Việt Nam in 2014 was 7.45 times higher than in 2009, when they began enjoying visa waivers from the country.
Nguyễn Hữu Thọ, chairman of the Việt Nam Travel Association, said waiving visas for more countries is inevitable at a time when Việt Nam is struggling to compete with other regional tourism destinations.
Hoàng Hữu Lộc, chairman of the board of members of Saigontourist, a leading tour operator in Hồ Chí Minh City, said Việt Nam should also scrap visas for nations that have non-stop flights to the country.
Free-visa rules will encourage international vacationers to come to Việt Nam, and having a non-stop service there is a plus, he said.
Source: Tuổi Trẻ News