Looser Entry Conditions Proposed

9:04:05 AM | 5/10/2016

The Government of Vietnam issued visa exemption policy on citizens from some countries from July 1, 2015. Accordingly, citizens from Republic of Belarus have the visa requirement waived for five years and citizens from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy (collectively called five Western European countries) are granted a one-year visa waiver.
After more than nine months of deployment, tourists from visa-free countries have increased continuously. The growth rates in the third quarter and fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 were respectively 4.24 per cent, 16.49 per cent and 20 per cent, compared with a 1 per cent reduction in tourist arrivals from these five countries in the first six months of 2015. Tourist arrivals from the five countries totalled 554,242 in nine months of deployment, an increase of 13.91 per cent over the same periods in 2014 and 2015. Belarusian tourists to Vietnam approximated nearly 6,000 in 2015, up 65 per cent over 2014 - the highest growth rate in many years.
The 2010 - 2014 period, tourist arrivals from five Western European countries to Vietnam grew 5.35 per cent a year on average. With this growth rate, Vietnam is expected to welcome 512,570 tourists from these markets from July 2015 to June 2016.
With visa-free entry, tourist arrivals to Vietnam from these five countries rose 13.91 per cent to 554,242 or 41,648 more arrivals.
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) said additional revenue from tourists from these five countries was estimated at US$171 million. It is clear that visa-free entry has brought positive effects and benefits on tourism and economic development.
However, there are still some obstacles in visa waiver policy for citizens in the five Western European countries; thus, results are under expectations. The one-year visa exemption is too short as business plans are usually made for 2-5 years (medium-term strategy) or over 5 years (long-term strategy). In tourism business, promotion activities require at least six months to one year to bring new products to tourists.
Moreover, short-term policies primarily draw individual tourists. Group tourist companies tend to wait for stable long-term policies from Vietnam. Tourists from far countries like Western Europe tend to stay over 15 days (3-4 weeks) and the current 15-day visa exemption policy is not attractive to tourists, a travel company said.
An official from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said in a meeting on visa exemption that, with results from the current visa waiver policy, the ministry asked the Prime Minister for permission to extend the visa-free policy for citizens from the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy from one year to five years and increase the visa-free entry duration from 15 days to 30 days to match the needs of Western European tourists. The ministry also proposed the Government consider and approve the ministry’s proposals in Document 40/TTr-BVHTTDL dated March 16, 2016 on unilateral visa exemption for citizens from 13 countries using package tours provided by international travel companies permitted to operate in Vietnam.
Nguyen Thanh