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Jun 05, 2022 / 19:53

Vietnam urged to expand visa exemption to soon recover tourism

Vietnam currently offers visa-free stay to arrivals from 23 countries, including 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Vietnam is recommended to expand visa waiver policy to meet the target of welcoming five million visitors at the end of this year. 

 Lawmaker Tran Thi Van speaks at the ongoing parliament session. Photo: Quochoi

Visa exemption will matter a lot to post-pandemic tourism in the context that Vietnam is on the way to recovering its economy, in which the tourism industry accounts for 9.2% of the country’s GDP before Covid-19, lawmaker Tran Thi Van said at the ongoing National Assembly. 

“Tourists prefer destinations with a high degree of visa openness. For that reason, any country with an open visa policy will have more opportunity to attract international visitors,” Van said in the discussions held this week. 

’For reference, Van said Vietnam is less open than regional countries as it exempts nationals from only 23 countries from visa requirement. Meanwhile, Thailand exempts citizens from 65 countries from visas for stay of up to 60 days with multiple entries while Indonesia offers up to 30 days of visa-free stay with the possibility of extension. 

“It’s hard for Vietnam to attract tourists with such a strict visa policy,” she noted.           

She suggested that Vietnam should increase the visa exemption period from 15 days to 30 days, with multiple entries, cut procedures for travel agencies and tourists, and simplify the issuance of e-visa and visas on-arrival. 

The lawmaker stressed the importance of the visa waiver program to the development of tourism as the number of foreign tourists coming to Vietnam reached more than 365,000 in the first five months of 2022, making it hard to achieve the year-end target of five million.  

She said the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) should have clear guidelines and well-prepared tourism promotion programs abroad to attract visitors. 

 Visitors warmly welcome in Vietnam. Photo: Trung Vu

MCST Minister Nguyen Van Hung said the ministry is working on the visa exemption to remove existing problems. After March 15 [the time when Vietnam fully opened its borders to visitors], guests can be directly granted visas, no longer through a travel agent like before, Hung told lawmakers at an interpellation earlier this month. 

Hung said the tourism industry now focuses on improving the quality of human resources to upgrade destinations and digitize facilities to enable the industry to meet this year’s tourist arrival target. 

He said Vietnam’s early pilot and fully-open tourism programs have brought in good results as more visitors are coming. But it takes more time to adjust the industry to the new normal, especially to reach the pre-pandemic level. 

In the first five months of 2022, the number of international arrivals to Vietnam was 365,000, up 4.5 times in the same period last year, accounting for one tenth of 2020. Before Covid-19, the figure was 7.3 million in the first five months of 2019, increasing from 6.7 million in 2018 and 5.3 million in 2017. 

To boost the tourism industry, Vietnam needs to focus on domestic tourism taking advantage of the 100-million market as experts consider it a promising and profitable strategy in boosting the tourism industry. 

Hung shared that domestic tourism plays an essential role in this context, in which outbound tourism remains dependent on overseas factors namely the pandemic situation and mobility restrictions imposed by other countries. 

Vietnam is now in summer or the high tourism season and tourist attractions, mainly coastal areas across the country, are expected to be overwhelmed.