Expand visa exemption to attract more foreign tourists: experts
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Foreign tourists cheer up for Vietnamese men's national football team during AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 on Bui Vien pedestrian Street in District 1, HCMC, on December, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh
Vietnam should grant visa exemption to more countries and allow a stay of up to 30 days to increase foreign tourist numbers and their local spending, experts say.
Tran Dinh Thien, a member of the prime minister's economic advisory group, said at a tourism conference in the northern province of Quang Ninh that now "was the opportunity we need to take advantage of to open tourism wider and affirm Vietnam's position on the global tourism map."
The government had agreed last week to resume its unilateral visa exemption policy for citizens from 13 countries as Vietnam reopened inbound tourism after nearly two years of closure.
Citizens from Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. will be allowed to visit Vietnam for up to 15 days without a visa regardless of passport type and entry purpose.
Thien said that though Vietnam has fully reopened its borders, the tourism industry can only welcome 25-30 percent of tourists against pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, the government should expand its visa exemption policy to include more countries like Australia and New Zealand.
"Vietnam should also consider prolonging the stay of tourists from European countries from the current 15 days because Westerners tend to make longer trips, especially retirees. Therefore, the 15-day visa exemption is not enough to attract them," Thien said.
Pham Thi Nguyet of Vietnam Airlines said the visa exemption with stay of up to 30 days will boost opportunities to attract international visitors to Vietnam, especially from Europe.
Currently, only citizens of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Kyrgyzstan are offered visa-free stay of 30 days. But most Asian tourists typically make short trips of four to five days, industry insiders say.
Pham Truong Hoang, who teaches hotel management and tourism at the National Economics University, said it was high time that Vietnam relaxed policies to attract more foreign tourists through expanded visa exemption, instead of remained focused on pre-pandemic markets.
Before the pandemic, Vietnam had among the strictest visa policies in Asia with only 24 countries qualifying for exemption, compared to Thailand's 64, Indonesia's 70, and the Philippines' 157.
Tran Nguyen, sales director of hospitality company and property developer Sun Group, also felt that the government should relax its visa exemption policy and include more potential tourism markets like New Zealand and Australia.
Nguyen Thi Le Huong, deputy general director of tour operator Vietravel, proposed the scrapping of Covid-19 tests for fully vaccinated foreign tourists arriving in Vietnam.
Though Vietnam has reopened international tourism with relaxed entry rules, it still requires foreign visitors to furnish negative Covid-19 test results on arrival.