Assoc. seeks visa-free policy for visitors of certain markets
VietNamNet Bridge – The Vietnam Tourism Association has petitioned the Prime Minister for a mechanism to issue visas at a number of border gates and to continue exempting visas for visitors from seven key markets of the local tourism industry.
Foreign visitors are seen waiting to complete check-in procedures at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
The association was earlier asked by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism for comments on a tentative plan to remove the visa-free policy for travelers from these seven countries, namely South Korea, Japan, Russia and four North European nations.
Besides, as visa issuance fee has been hiked to US$40 from the previous US$25 from the start of the year, the association’s members are concerned that the stricter visa policy will narrow down the number of foreign visitors to Vietnam. They therefore called for loosening the visa policy.
The association insisted that the loosened visa policy previously adopted by the country has given a strong boost to the growth of international arrivals from major markets. The country last year welcomed up to 1.45 million tourists from Russia, South Korea and Japan alone, posting total revenues of around US$2 billion.
The local tourism industry contributed US$200 million of value added tax to State budget revenue last year, which is ascribable to some 80% of these travelers subject to the free-visa policy. Meanwhile, with the visa fee increase, the Government can collect only US$40-50 million, seen inconsiderable compared to the tourism revenues.
In fact, the visa-free policy has also led to a strong growth in the number of North European visitors to Vietnam in recent times.
“Stopping the special policy might negatively affect and pull down the number of visitors from these markets by at least 50%,” the association remarked.
Since the end of last year, the information on visa issuance fee hike as well as a possibility of the Government removing the visa-free policy for certain markets has worried members in the tourism industry.
Echoing the association’s view, most international tour operators are concerned that the number of international tourist arrivals will decline immediately if the nation’s visa issuance policy is tightened again.
Nearly 6.85 million international visitors came to Vietnam last year, up over 13.8% year-on-year, with about 4.2 million visiting the country for tourism and relaxation purposes.
Many neighboring nations are rushing to loosen visa policy in a bid to lure travelers, with Singapore and Malaysia exempting visas for citizens of around 150 countries and territories.
Similarly, Thailand allows for the entry of foreigners of 55 countries into the nation without a visa while enhancing the issuance of visas at border gates as well.