|A Vietnamese tour guide speaking to foreign tourists at Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary in the central province of Quảng Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo Đoàn Hữu Trung|
HÀ NỘI — The Government’s proposal to loosen the visa policy for foreigners would untangle a knot in the tourism sector, facilitating international arrivals and enhancing the competitiveness of Vietnamese tourism, according to insiders.
Under the proposal, which has been submitted to the National Assembly, the validity of e-visas will be extended to 90 days from the current 30 days, with single and multiple entries, and be granted to citizens of all countries and territories.
The temporary residence issued at the border gate for people entering the country under the visa exemption categories will also be increased from 15 days to 45 days.
Breakthrough solution development
Commenting on the proposal, Chairman of the Việt Nam Tourism Association Vũ Thế Bình said that it is good news for the tourism sector, as although Việt Nam reopened the sector earlier than those in the region, the country has offered less open visa policies, which was likely the reason why Việt Nam was not able to reach its target in the number of foreign visitors last year.
Bình said that once approved, the new policy will motivate the development of tourism activities, especially international tourism. He added that the policy, coupled with the rich resources, will help the sector recover and develop rapidly.
The official analysed that high-spending tourists, the target group of Việt Nam, often stay for at least three weeks, while Việt Nam's current policy allows them to stay for only 15 days, making Việt Nam not a good choice for them. He said that applying e-visa will also help save time for tourists.
Deputy Director of the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) Phạm Văn Thuỵ said that loosening visa policy will be a new step forwards for Việt Nam to catch up with other countries in the region and the world, providing the best conditions for tourists to enter Việt Nam.
According to Thuỵ, the loosened visa policy will meet the demand of travel firms and the tourism sector, enabling them to compete with their regional rivals.
“It will create a ‘golden chance’ for Vietnamese tourism to thrive.”
Removing bottlenecks in tourism
Experts asserted that once the Government’s proposal is approved, the tourism sector and the VNAT should be responsible for popularising the new policy to the international community through diverse communication activities.
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) analysed that a favourable visa policy would increase international arrivals by 5-25 per cent per year.
A study on the impact of visa exemption on five West European countries by the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) showed that the average number of visitors from these countries to Việt Nam had increased by nearly 20 per cent.
This proves that changes in the visa policy towards more flexibility and openness are always the 'key' to attracting international visitors, creating a great breakthrough for tourism.
Since March 15, 2022, when international tourism resumed, Việt Nam has started to re-apply the bilateral and unilateral visa exemption policy, in which citizens of 12 countries have enjoyed visa exemption under the unilateral visa exemption scheme while those of 13 countries, including 11 European countries (instead of only five countries previously), have also enjoyed the exemption under the bilateral scheme. Việt Nam has also issued e-visas to citizens of about 80 countries.
However, many countries in the region have offered visa exemptions to an even larger number of countries. For example, Singapore has applied the policy to 162 countries, the Philippines 157, and Thailand 65.
On the other hand, Việt Nam's most popular visa-free period (15 days) is much shorter than that offered by other countries in ASEAN (usually 30 days or more).
Many ASEAN countries have increased the visa exemption period from 30 to 45 days, and even 90 days, to facilitate international tourists.
Việt Nam's short visa exemption period is unsuitable for the long-term travel needs of international visitors, especially those from far-away countries such as Europe.
The extension of the visa-free duration is also expected to help Việt Nam attract visitors who enter Việt Nam for trade and investment purposes in combination with tourism. Travel firms also proposed visa exemptions for MICE or golf tourists.
In the recently released White Book on the 2022-23 period, which is themed on working toward a green economy and sustainable development and fully implementing the EVFTA and completing the ratification of EVIPA, the EuroCham clarified that the entry visa policy is one of the levers that have the greatest impact on the flow of international tourists. After the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are seeking ways to expand the scope of visa exemption.
It said this would help improve competitiveness, attract direct investment and increase the flow of international tourists, thereby increasing foreign currency revenue and creating more jobs.
Therefore, the tourism sector praises the Government’s proposal as an effective measure to boost its growth. — VNS