Late visa policy announcement challenges tourism
Updated : Monday, April 09, 2018 3:10 PM (GMT+0700)

Thevisa exemption policy for citizens of five European countries will expire inthe next three months. Whether and when it might be renewed are still openquestions, creating a headache for tourists and Vietnamese businesses thatserve them. 

Foreign visitors in Vietnam - Source: ​VNA

To address the dramaticdecrease of international tourists to Vietnam in 2015, the Government grantedcitizens of the United Kingdom, France, Germany,  Spain and Italy a visaexemption for stays of less than 15 days, regardless of passport type andtravel purpose from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.

After one year of pilotingthe visa exemption, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phucc decided to renew thepolicy for one year, till June 30, 2017. 

He made the decision on June30, 2016 and it came into effect the next day. Similarly, in 2017 when theGovernment renewed the policy again, it did so only 24 days before theexpiration date on June 6, 2017. Therefore, there’s good reason to expect itwill be renewed again—but little reason to think it will happen in time forvisitors and guides to plan for it with ease. 

Nguyen Thien Phuc, aninbound tour operator, said that announcing visa policies too close to theenforcement dates puts both tourism enterprises and tourists at risk. Companiescommonly build up tour programmes six months to one year prior. They cannotpromote tour packages if the visa is not fixed.

Phuc told Thanh nien (Young people) newspaper thathis foreign partners usually complained about the late announcement ofVietnamese visa policies as tourists usually register for tours four to fivemonths before the departure dates.

“If Vietnam suddenly stopsthe visa exemption policy, a tourist will have to apply for visas in rush whenthe departure date approaching fast”, he said.

The Travel & TourismCompetitiveness Index 2017 published by the World Economic Forum ranks Vietnamin 34th place in terms of natural resources, 30th placein cultural resources and business travel, 37th place in humanresources and labour market out of 136 economies across the world. However, interms of international openness, the country scored low, at the 73rdplace.

In comparison to othercountries in the region, Vietnam’s visa policies are not as competitiveand attractive, with the visa exemption offered only for citizens of 23countries and territories. That figure is 165 in the Philippines, 164 inMalaysia and 160 in Singapore. Indonesia, aiming to welcome 20 million foreigntourists by 2019, has opened the visa exemption policy for citizens of 169countries and territories.

The visa-exempt stayduration is only 15 days, quicker than the typical trip of an internationaltourist to Vietnam. Moreover, citizens of countriesenjoying Vietnam’s one-way visa exemption to Vietnam have to bear apassport which must be valid for at least six months and at least 30 days fromthe departure date from Vietnam.

Nguyen Quoc Ky, headof Vietravel Company Managing Board, said that these shortcomings obstructthe influx of tourists to Vietnam.

“From 2011 to 2017,Japan welcomed 19 million international tourists but the number in Vietnamwas only 12.9 million. Thailand, meanwhile, expects to receive 35 millioninternational tourists in 2018. The widening gap means we are steppingbackward,” said Ky.


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