Travel firms fear visa policy will discourage foreign travelers

Vietnam’s competitiveness in the tourism sector has improved significantly, but many travellers are unhappy about the visa policy.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report on global tourism competitiveness, showing that Vietnam moved up from 67th out of 136 countries in 2017 to 63rd out of 140 countries in 2019. It was described as an encouraging result if noting that the majority of other regional countries didnot move up in ranking.

Travel firms fear visa policy will discourage foreign travelers



The improvement was seen clearly in the visa index with a jump from the 116th position to the 53rd position.

The country now applies the e-visa for 80 countries instead of 40 and has extended the visa waiver for five West European countries for three more years.

However, Hoang Nhan Chinh from the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) said Vietnam is still at the bottom in the region’s ranking in terms of the visa index.

Under the current regulation, the visa fee is $25 per person. However, according to Chinh, the survey found that only 18 percent of foreign travelers paid under $30, while the majority of foreign travelers had to pay over $30.

In Q1 2019, TAB carried out a survey on foreign travelers, travel firms and NGOs that had applied for visas to Vietnam and found that foreign travelers and organizations wanted Vietnam to improve the visa policy.

 


Under the current regulation, the visa fee is $25 per person. However, according to Chinh, the survey found that only 18 percent of foreign travelers paid under $30, while the majority of foreign travelers had to pay over $30.

Some travelers even said they had to spend over $90, or four times higher than stipulated. This means that they had to pay other kinds of fees, including service fees.

Meanwhile, the number of foreign travelers enjoying the visa waiver policy remains modest, just accounting for 8 percent.

Travelers also complained it takes a long time to apply for visa. The average time needed to get e-visa is 5 days but in many cases, foreign investors have to wait 6-14 days.

Many foreign travelers have to access unofficial channels for information about visa procedures. Fifteen percent of polled travelers said they found information from embassies, 14 percent from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), and 26 percent from travel firms. Others said they sought information from unofficial channels or search engines.

The survey found that the number of foreign travelers in Vietnam under tours for 16 days or longer accounts for a large proportion. Vietnam mostly waives visas for 15 days or less.

Regarding visa application procedures, most other countries apply simpler procedures than Vietnam. Only Myanmar is believed to have procedures similarly complicated. Vietnam’s visa policy is viewed as insufficiently open and uncompetitive.

Linh Ha 

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