Visa-related overhaul is expected to be a key remedy for the Vietnamese tourism sector, which has been experiencing continuous tourism declines in the last eleven months.
Vietnam unilaterally exempts visas for citizens of Japan, the Republic of Korea, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Russia. It bilaterally grants 30-day exemptions for citizens from nine out of the 10 ASEAN member states.
The number of international holidaymakers dropped from June 2014 to April 2015, with the growth rate falling from 34.8 percent in 2010 to 4 percent in 2014.
At a recent workshop on tourism development, Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association Nguyen Huu Tho attributed the decline in numbers to changes in visa, transit and cruise travel regulations and the National Administration of Tourism’s ineffective coordination between localities.
Passengers travelling by ship are no longer considered one-day transit passengers and are required to go through a series of procedures to enter Vietnam.
According to Nguyen Thi Van Anh, Head of the Red Tour Company, Vietnam’s visa fees are higher than many regional countries and visa waivers have only been approved for a fraction of nationalities. Bulky procedures, with more than ten papers requiring authentication, are also hindering the growth of local tourism.
Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand have so far exempted citizens from more than 150 countries from paying visa fees, she said.
Pham Xuan Anh, Chairman of Viet Excursion, suggested Vietnam should develop a more customer-friendly visa processing system that facilitates payment to remove tourism barriers.
Vu The Binh, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said those issues reduce Vietnam’s appeal to international travellers and pose difficulties in competing with regional countries.
He said his agency, based on careful consideration, proposed that the Government issue visa waivers for France, Germany, the UK and Australia, as well as allowing 120-hour transit at international airports.