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Vietnam In Need of Open Visa Policy to Boost Tourism

One of Vietnam’s visions is to build its tourism sector into a major economic machinery and one way of accomplishing this is implementing an open visa policy which will surely attract more international travellers to visit the country.

Vietnam’s visa policy has actually been restricting its potential for a tourism boom because of its complex process and high visa costs which naturally discourage would-be visitors into the country. At present, it has only approved visa waivers from 23 countries including ASEAN co-members. In contrast, its rivals in the tourism industry have been very accommodating to their tourists. Indonesia offers visa-free travel to 169 countries. It is known as of the “most liberalized” countries for visas in the world. Singapore allows 158 nations to enter its country without a visa. Malaysia has a visa-free policy for 155 countries, while Thailand implements the same system for 61.

An airline official stressed the importance of a visa-free policy, noting that visa cost is not so much an issue for travellers than applying for a visa which creates some form of discomfort and unease. He added that tourism visa is not a bilateral issue, which means that its requirements and procedures depend on each country. This means that it could be easy or difficult depending on what country.

Visa exemption has been proven to be an effective tool in enticing visitors into a country. When Vietnam approved this policy to United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy since July 2015, the results were immediately obvious. About 720,000 European tourists entered the country in the 12 months after the visa-free enforcement, a 96,000 rise than in 2014 when the policy wasn’t yet implemented. The sudden influx of visitors also raised a total revenue of US$126 million, so much worth the $21 million deficit from the visa fees exemption.

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In 2017, 58,000 additional European visitors arrived in Vietnam and gained $76 million in revenues. The deficit in visa fees was $2.3 million. Aside from the surge of tourists and increase in total revenues, the visa-free policy also enabled tourism-related businesses to flourish.

Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association stated though that instead of conducting an annual review of the policy, the government should extend the system to make Vietnam a more attractive global tourist destination. This “review condition” restricts travel agencies from fully offering their services to their clients as visa waivers for promotional campaigns for instance could change every year. It may work for individual tourists, but not for large tours.

Vietnam intends to receive 20 million international visitors by 2020. In order to achieve this, it has to make an urgent decision of changing its short-term visa-free policy into a long-term one. Visa exemptions are not only a global trend, but have proven to be an effective measure in attracting international tourists into a country. Vietnam’s rich history and culture is a strong tourist magnet and in order to strengthen this sector, the establishment of a stable visa-free policy is a huge consideration, if not a must.   

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