|In the first half of this year HCM City attracted more than 2.16 million international visitors, up 3 per cent year-on-year, but the figure for the entire country slumped by 11.3 per cent to around 3.8 million.— Photo baotintuc
by Le Hung Vong
HCM City tourism authorities want the visa-free stay for European travellers doubled to 30 days. The Government will allow nationals of the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain to enter Viet Nam without a visa for up to 15 days starting this month in an effort to reverse a decline in foreign arrivals.
In the first half of this year HCM City attracted more than 2.16 million international visitors, up 3 per cent year-on-year, but the figure for the entire country slumped by 11.3 per cent to around 3.8 million.
To attract more foreign visitors, travel firms in HCM City said Europeans should be offered a longer visa-free stay to enable them to do trans-Viet Nam tours or take in Cambodia and Laos as well, according to the city Department of Tourism.
Many European tour operators have complained that Viet Nam's visa policy for nationals of the five European countries is not as liberal as expected because they are required to apply for a visa if they stay more than 15 days in Viet Nam or return to Viet Nam after finishing their tours in a third country. Besides, the waiver is for only a 12-month period and an extension is under consideration. This is not of much use for European tourists who often make travel plans very early.
The city Department of Tourism is preparing to pass on the travel firms' demand to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Viet Nam also waives visas for citizens of ASEAN member countries, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Belarus, Japan, and South Korea.
Attracting hi-tech investments
Dong Nai Province authorities are making efforts to attract investments in hi-tech projects following the licensing of the Long Thanh Hi-Tech I P in Long Thanh District.
The province People's Committee granted a licence to Amata Long Thanh JSC, the operator of the first high-tech industrial park in Dong Nai, on July 22.
Located on a 410ha area, the US$282 million IP is expected to be a modern, international-standard facility that will abet the province's socio-economic development.
Dong Nai's aim is to mobilise investment in technology, support industries that use high technology, and modern engineering. Among the top five provinces in attracting FDI, Dong Nai has licensed four hi-tech investment projects in its 31 industrial parks, according to figures from its Department of Planning and Investment.
Speaking at the licensing ceremony, Somhatai Panichewa, president of Amata Viet Nam JSC, said projects which would create 16,000 to 20,000 jobs with five to six times more capital than Amata would invest in the park after it opens in 2017.
Chairman of the Dong Nai People's Committee, Dinh Quoc Thai, praised the Thai-invested Amata Viet Nam JSC's contributions to the province, adding that its Long Binh Industrial Park in Bien Hoa city has 140 occupants who have a combined registered capital of billions of dollars. Dong Nai has licensed around 1,300 FDI projects from 40 countries and territories with a total investment of US$26 billion, he added.
Real estate draws foreign money
Foreign investors are keen on the Vietnamese property sector as indicated by an increase in foreign direct investment in it this year.
According to figures from the Foreign Investment Department, in the first seven months of this year Vietnamese authorities issued licences for 15 new property projects worth US$1.43 billion and for seven operational projects to invest a further $265.7 million.
As of 20 July there were 468 operational foreign projects in the property sector with total registered capital of $49.25 billion.
Besides, the construction sector accounted for 1,221 FDI projects and the hospitality sector for 392, and total registered capital for each sector is over $11 billion.
The recovery in the housing market is attracting foreign investors. In 2014 foreign investment in the sector amounted to $2.54 billion, 12.6 per cent of total FDI and three times the previous year's figure.
The amended Housing Law, effective from July 1, is providing further impetus to the housing sector. In addition, the new Real Estate Trading Law allows foreign organisations not only to acquire offices, production facilities and other assets for their business activities but also to transfer ownership of unfinished real estate projects to other investors. It will help boost transactions related to production/manufacturing plants and logistics and industrial parks, according to CBRE Viet Nam managing director Marc Townsend.
Foreign investors are optimistic about Viet Nam's real estate market and this is the reason behind the huge investments in real estate recently.
Local property firms Tien Phuoc JSC and Tran Thai Co. Ltd. have joined hands with the UK-based Denver Power Ltd. for the $1.2 billion De Vuong Joint Venture which was licensed in July.
Korean group Lotte has bought a majority stake in HCM City's Diamond Plaza shopping mall.
US giant Goldman Sachs and the Qatar Investment Authority are seeking to jointly buy Keangnam Landmark, the 72-story building in Ha Noi currently priced at $770 million. Tokyo-based Creed Group has signed a deal with An Gia Real Estate Investment and Development JSC, under which it will bring in $200 million to buy An Gia shares and provide loans to the Vietnamese firm to buy housing projects and build Japanese-quality houses in HCM City.
Creed Group, a Japanese real estate firm specialising in principal investment and property development, will also provide technology to An Gia.
Toshihiko Muneyoshi, president of Creed, said his company decided to invest in Viet Nam because "The country's economy has integrated deeply and the government was going to finalise Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, thus opening more opportunities to draw large investors from across the world." — VNS