|Foreign tourists visiting the Independence Palace in HCM City. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Đạt
HÀ NỘI — In a bid to boost inbound tourism, Việt Nam is considering increasing the number of nationalities eligible for visa exemptions.
Currently, tourists from 25 countries do not need visas on arrival, but this list could soon be extended to include the US and other European nations.
Additionally, the duration of the visa-free period could be extended to satisfy holidaymakers looking for a longer vacation. For many countries, the current duration is 15 days.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be coordinating with the Ministry of Public Security and other authorities on the plan, in an effort to pick up disappointing numbers of international arrivals after the country opened its doors back up after the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, spokesperson for the foreign ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng responded to questions from the media on measures to boost inbound tourism, especially with the tourism authorities’ suggestion of expanding visa waiver policies.
While domestic tourism has seen impressive growth, foreign visitors are still not flocking back to Việt Nam, requiring further efforts to improve policies and ease of entry.
Minister of Culture, Sports, Tourism Nguyễn Văn Hùng in a document sent to National Assembly deputies ahead of the question-and-answer session on Thursday mentioned that visa waivers for potential markets like the US and European countries should be carried out, in order to boost the number of tourist arrivals to Việt Nam in this phase of recovery.
The minister also suggested the visa-free duration should be extended beyond the 15-day limit currently in place, as many visitors want to stay in the country for longer. This could be for up to three to four weeks.
The country aims to receive five million international visitors in 2022, but so far in the first seven months, there has been less than one million. Although it should be noted that Việt Nam’s peak foreign tourist season is towards the end of the year, while the peak domestic tourism season is in the summer.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, with more dangerous and contagious variants cropping up, along with the emergence of new concerning infectious diseases like monkeypox, some countries still impose some levels of travel restrictions, including countries and territories that are key tourism markets of Việt Nam,” the spokesperson noted.
The global economy has not fully recovered, tourism likewise is not recovering as well as expected, and Việt Nam is not an exception, she said.
Implementing the Government’s instructions on tourism recovery, spokesperson Hằng said the foreign ministry has been working with domestic agencies and international partners to facilitate international travel – for both Vietnamese citizens and foreigners – including the negotiations for acceptance of COVID-19 vaccine passports or expediting the signing of international agreements on entry and exit protocols with other countries.
In reality, Việt Nam was one of the earliest countries in the world to reopen border and international tourism activities, including the resumption of visa exemption and visa policies, starting from March 15, 2022, Hằng said.
The country currently does not require foreign arrivals to have proof of negative COVID-19 tests, COVID-19 vaccine certificates, quarantine on arrival, or declare their medical status.
Việt Nam is among Southeast Asian countries with the simplest entry procedures after the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted.
“In order to truly boost tourism, we think that localities, tourism authorities and enterprises should be focusing on developing green tourism, linking tourism with conservation efforts and promotion of cultural heritages and national identity. It is also advised that the quality of tourism products, services, infrastructure, and human resources should be improved, in line with the demands of the tourists,” the foreign ministry said on measures to enhance tourism activities.
The broadcasting of Việt Nam’s tourism attractions and services to global audiences, especially using modern technology, with attractive and creative content, should also be amplified, she added.
“I believe this is the view and the direction of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to push tourism activities in the future,” Hằng said.
New passports non-recognition
Asked about the fact that some European countries have suspended recognition of Việt Nam's new navy blue passports due to the lack of place of birth (province/city) information, the foreign ministry spokesperson said that on August 9, the Consular Department under the foreign ministry and the Immigration Department under the public security ministry, met with embassies of Germany, Czech Republic, and Spain on the issue.
At the meeting, the Vietnamese agencies provided their stances and put forward proposals on addressing the issues, including adding place of birth to newly issued passports.
The Vietnamese ministries have urged countries to cooperate with Việt Nam in resolving the problems to soon resume granting of visas to holders of Việt Nam's new passports, Hằng said.
"We also welcomed representatives of Germany, Czech Republic, and Spain in saying they would be cooperative with Vietnamese authorities in addressing bottlenecks in visa issuance for the new passports, on the condition that the citizens must present certified documents proving their place of birth in visa applications," she said.
In the future, Vietnamese agencies will be closely following the situation and providing the best conditions for Vietnamese citizens to travel abroad, Hằng said. — VNS