Việt Nam to expand list of countries eligible for visa exemption

March 15, 2023 - 21:56
The country will also ensure reasonable visa fee and widely implement e-visa application process .
Foreigners tour HCM City on cyclos. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam will expand the list of countries eligible for visa exemptions and extend the duration of stay for international tourists as part of the efforts to support the tourism sector, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính said at a conference held on Wednesday.

The country will also ensure reasonable visa fees and widely implement the e-visa application process as well as create favourable conditions for local and international airlines to launch direct flights connecting Việt Nam with key and/or potential tourism markets.

Speaking at an online national conference on tourism on Wednesday, exactly a year since Việt Nam reopened to international tourism after the pandemic, he said Việt Nam aimed to welcome 110 million visitors, including 8 million foreigners this year and called for extra efforts to meet the target, and for the tourism sector to earn VNĐ650 trillion (US$27.65 billion) in 2023.

The event, linked with sites in all 63 centrally-run cities and provinces, brought together representatives from ministries, agencies, localities, and travel organisations, associations and firms, experts and researchers.

In his opening remarks, Chính said the conference is the third of its kind to implement the Politburo’s Resolution No 08-NQ/TW, dated January 16, 2017, on turning tourism into an economic spearhead.

He attributed the great efforts by the tourism sector, under the Party’s leadership and the State’s management and with the engagement of the entire political system and the support of the business community and the public, to domestic tourism recovery.

The leader also noted challenges to the sector, especially in attracting foreign visitors, as many countries and traditional markets and partners of Việt Nam have still maintained immigration restrictions due to complex COVID-19 pandemic developments, and the negative impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

According to the PM, such immigration barriers are expected to be removed this year, which will generate both opportunities and challenges to Vietnamese tourism, including competition pressure.

Turning tourism into an economic spread requires solutions to the issues, both in the short and long term, PM Chính said.

Policies on infrastructure development, tourism promotion, environmental protection, cultural development in combination with tourism development and resources mobilisation, visa, labour and technology should be proposed to create breakthroughs in the sector, he said.

Developing tourism in a rapid and sustainable way is the responsibility of the entire political system, the Government, ministries, agencies, localities, people and businesses, not a single individual, the leader noted.

Participants at the conference proposed solutions to accelerate domestic tourism and fulfill the targets in 2023.

Lê Hồng Hà, general director of national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, said in the first two months of the year, domestic air traffic increased by 12.5 per cent compared to the same period of 2020, which is a good indicator. Although the growth has slowed down compared to the 40 per-cent surge in the previous period, this is a good result.

He proposed paying attention to airport infrastructure to avoid overloading at domestic terminals.

Growth of international air transport in the first two months of 2023 was much better than that of 2022, reaching 64 per cent, the same growth rate in the period before the pandemic.

Vietnamese airlines, including Vietnam Airlines, have reopened all international routes, including two new markets (US and India) that opened during the pandemic. However, the number of international tourists remains low. Vietnamese airlines operate only 60 to 64 per cent of capacity on international routes, he said.

He proposed the Government take the lead in connecting airlines with tourism and offer supportive policies for businesses to resume investment in airlines and tourism to improve service quality.

According to Nguyễn Văn Hùng, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the ministry has issued a Vietnamese tourism marketing strategy for 2030. The tourism sector has set the target of welcoming 8 million international visitors and 102 million domestic tourists in 2023 with total earnings from tourism reaching about VNĐ650 trillion.

He said 63 localities should develop 63 identical tourism products of their own.

He proposed the Government issue a resolution after the conference, which will set out tasks and solutions for ministries and sectors to remove bottlenecks in the visa exemption policy, improve the competitiveness of Vietnamese tourism, as well as create more favourable conditions for international tourists to enter Việt Nam.

Statistics from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism showed that the number of international visitors to Việt Nam jumped to 18 million in 2019 from only 7.9 million in 2015, an annual growth of 22.7 per cent.

Việt Nam's average annual growth of 22.7 per cent is among the highest in the world, according to the World Travel Organisation.

The country’s tourism has stepped up eight places on the 2021 Tourism and Travel Development Index (TTDI) to 52nd compared with 2019, said the World Economic Forum (WEF) Report.

With six out of the 17 pillar indexes ranked among the top in the world, Việt Nam's tourism ranks among the top three fastest-growing countries.

Since the border reopening on March 15, 2022, the sector has been recovering, especially domestic tourism.

Last year, the country served 101.3 million domestic visitors and 3.5 million foreign tourists, and raked in VNĐ495 trillion from the industry, up more than 23 per cent from the set target, and equivalent to 66 per cent of the 2019 figure. —VNS