|Foreigners visit Sa Pa, a famous tourist destination, in the northern province of Lao Cai. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Ha
HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam plans to reduce visa fees for foreigners entering the country, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Huynh Vinh Ai said.
He made the announcement after a tourism working group meeting at the mid-term Viet Nam Business Forum 2015 said visa fees for Viet Nam were too high, hindering tourists from visiting the country.
Competent Vietnamese agencies would simplify the visa procedures at the airport and for online visas, he said.
The government has asked relevant ministries to study the possibility of reducing visa fees.
The Prime Minister has authorised the culture, sports and tourism ministry to coordinate with the foreign affairs and public security ministries in submitting a list of countries that enjoy unilateral visa exemption soon.
Viet Nam considered tourism to be a key economic sector, contributing five to 10 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product, Ai said.
The government would not only reform visa procedures, but also improve tourism development and tourism products and expand flight connections with key countries, he said.
At the mid-term Viet Nam Business Forum 1015 meeting held yesterday in Ha Noi, Ken Atkinson, head of VBF's tourism working group, said high visa fees made Europeans hesitate from visiting the country. Many of them have chosen Thailand instead. Viet Nam's visa fees are equal to the amount required for spending two nights in Bangkok.
The working group has proposed that the government should reduce visa fees, reportedly the second highest in Asia, and review the extra fees charged for online visas and online visa documents.
The working group supported the government's visa waiver for citizens of Australia, New Zealand and European and North American countries because about 1.6 million tourists from these countries visit Viet Nam every year.
"A reduction in visa fees will bring about a hundred million dollars to Viet Nam due to a growth in the number of tourists," Atlinson said.
With the number of tourists from the above-mentioned countries increasing by about two per cent and the current average visa fee being US$70 per person, Viet Nam could earn about $40 million a year, he said.
Of these, $2.25 million can be collected from visa fees and $36.88 million from tourists' expenditure.
Viet Nam has offered unilateral visa exemption to citizens of 16 countries, including a number of nations in North Europe, ASEAN and North-East Asia. — VNS