|Boosting tourism with new visa policies. Photo: Shutterstock |
The proposal on extending the list of countries and territories getting Vietnam’s unilateral visa-waiver policy, once approved, will be a key enabler of Vietnam’s smokeless industry. The National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee has requested the Ministry of Public Security to join efforts with the Ministry of Justice to urgently finalise policies on management of foreigners entering Vietnam.
The key components include granting electronic visas to citizens of all countries; extending the time limit for granting certificates for temporary residence at border gates to immigrants from 15 days to 45 days; and extending the e-visa time limit to no more than 90 days, as well as making them multi-entry.
The ministries must report to the government, so it can consider adding the visa issue to the NA’s upcoming fifth session, slated for May.
Nguyen Le Phuc - Deputy general director Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
The number of international visitors in the first three months of this year has showed positive signals.
We welcomed about 1.8 million visitors in January and February, and it is predicted that this March, the number of international visitors may reach over one million people. The tourism industry in 2023 is expected to reach approximately 80-85 per cent of 2019 levels, and Vietnam’s tourism can welcome up to 10 million visitors compared to the target of 8 million international visitors set at the beginning of the year if this keeps up.
That is even more possible as we prepare to enter the domestic tourist season with many major cultural events. I think the competition to develop tourism among countries in the region is very tough.
Therefore, the government’s proposal to increase the duration of e-visas and increase the number of countries eligible for e-visas is an opportunity for Vietnam’s tourism to compete healthily with its rivals.
The tourism promotion plan also needs to focus on accelerating the recovery and attaching importance to key markets, not only traditional markets such as Northeast Asia and ASEAN, but to expand to new and more diverse markets, applying technology to classify visitors, and separate promotion strategies for each group of visitors, as each market has different needs and tastes.
The tourism industry also needs to coordinate related industries such as transport and digital transformation applications to connect destinations.
In addition, localities and tourist destinations must research and create unique and specialised products for tourists.
Vietnam reopened the tourism sector in early March 2022, but the number of foreign travellers to Vietnam remained modest at just 3.6 million for the year. Analysts said that one of the reasons was the strict visa rules, offering limited time to visit the country.
Pham Hong Long, dean of Tourism Faculty at Hanoi National University, said visitors, particularly those with hefty pockets, mostly care about convenience of procedures, and Vietnam is poor in this regard.
"Extending the visa waiver to visitors from countries with high payment capacity such as those in the EU, America, Australia, or New Zealand would be a smart move to bolster green growth," Long said.
Currently, Vietnam exempts visas to citizens of 24 countries either unilaterally or bilaterally, but this is only one-third of the countries enjoying visa exemptions entering Thailand, one-fifth of that offered by Malaysia, and one-sixth by Indonesia.
At the national online conference on tourism development on March 15, besides extending the stay for e-visa holders, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Do Hung Viet proposed the expansion of the visa exemption policy generally.
Viet noted that his ministry has been coordinating with others to promote the visa exemption negotiations with other countries, especially those with similar or higher development levels than Vietnam.
However, until now, the proposal on expansion of unilateral and bilateral visa-waiver countries has not yet been included in the content submitted by the government to the NA upcoming session.
With expectations the proposal will be enshrined in the upcoming NA session, Phan Duc Hieu, a member of the NA’s Economic Committee, suggested Vietnam consider offering visa waivers unilaterally to more countries in an attempt to boost inbound tourism.
“We might consider offering a 30-day visa waiver for visitors from countries still not offering a scheme for our visitors. With good outcomes, those countries might in turn also offer free visa scheme for our visitors. Such an exemplary policy is within our control,” said Hieu at a seminar on inbound tourism on March 22.
Luong Hoai Nam, a member of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, suggested extending the visa waiver scheme to all visitors coming from the EU zone, and visitor groups entering Vietnam for meetings industry and golf events.
“Raising the number of visa-waiver countries under the unilateral mode, and extending the validity of unilateral visa waiver programmes to five years for businesses are factors to help Vietnam harvest more opportunities in competition with other countries in the region,” said Nam.
Le Cong Nang, CEO of Wondertour, said that an open visa policy would serve as an invitation for international visitors.
"For visitors coming from regions with high payment capacity like the EU, Australia, the US, and Canada, the application of the unilateral-mode visa waiver with longer stay will help Vietnam to greet more foreign visitors," he said.
Nang proposed competent management agencies to allow visa waivers in unilateral and bilateral modes to citizens of 80 countries with e-visas serving a catalyst for Vietnam’s tourism.
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