Vietnam is gearing up efforts to ease its visa requirements to facilitate travel for citizens from more countries.
At last week’s tourism recovery conference in Hanoi, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh stated that Vietnam will waive visas for more countries and extend the duration of stay for international tourists to accelerate the recovery of tourism. Better conditions will also be created for airlines to open direct routes to Vietnam.
|More flexible visa policy finally on cards after multiple gripes, Photo source: freepik.com |
The prime minister stressed that after Vietnam reopened its tourism market, it failed to attract foreign visitors as expected in 2022. There has been a lack of attractive tourism products and quality remains limited, he said.
According to Pham Hai Quynh, director of the Asian Tourism Development Institute, easing visa requirements is a starting point for attracting more tourists to the country. It also encourages travellers to stay longer and explore more.
“With improvements in visa openness, Vietnam is likely to woo more tourists and investors to Vietnam. The rebound in inbound tourists will also have a spillover effect on other industries such as aviation, transportation, trading, and services,” Quynh said.
The restrictive visa policy means Vietnam cannot yet compete with the likes of Thailand. In September, Thailand extended the period of stay there to 45 days for tourists from countries entitled to visa exemptions and 30 days for those eligible for a visa on arrival. At the same time, Thailand has also applied modern technology for its e-visas, allowing visitors to enter the country multiple times.
“I hope Vietnam will create more conditions and increase international openness,” Quynh added. “If the visa policy is adjusted more openly, it will help Vietnam build an image as a dynamic country with ample tourism potential. The country should be flexible in tourism attraction policies to seize the golden opportunity to boost the recovery.”
Prior to the pandemic, Vietnam’s tourism industry achieved a two-digit growth rate for four consecutive years. In 2019, Vietnam was one of 10 countries with the fastest tourism growth rate in the world, welcoming 18 million international arrivals and serving 85 million domestic tourists.
The country earned a revenue of $32 billion from its tourism industry at the time, accounting for nearly 10 per cent of GDP, and created an estimated 1.3 million jobs.
According to data by HSBC, Vietnam’s tourism-related services are continuing to build up steam thanks to booming international tourism. In February alone, Vietnam welcomed around 933,000 foreign visitors, a record high since the start of the pandemic. Among all, mainland Chinese tourists edged substantially higher, reaching 55,000. While this was only 10 per cent of the pre-pandemic average of Chinese tourists, the numbers come against the backdrop of limited flight frequency and an absence of group tours.
Tourists from South Korea have also held up firmly, with monthly inflows recovering to around 85 per cent of its pre-pandemic level. While global trade of goods has slowed significantly, international tourism could be a supportive growth pillar for Vietnam, HSBC says, if some bottlenecks can be eased.
“Further easing of visa policy, which the government has been stressing, is under consideration,” says HSBC. “For now, Vietnam does not have visa exemptions for major markets including mainland China, the United States, and Australia, while visa exemptions for some European markets allow travellers to stay up to only 15 days.”
“Compared to peers, visa-free access remains relatively tight in Vietnam. Fortunately, this may change, and officials are considering the extension of the visa waiver period to 30 days and the issuance of electronic visas for citizens from all markets,” it added.
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By Hanh Phuc