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Vietnam Works to Implement Single ASEAN Tourist Visa

In order to boost its tourism industry, Vietnam is taking specific steps to implement the ASEAN single tourist visa policy.

The common visa system was created in 2013 during the first Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) tourism ministerial meeting in Ho Chi Minh City participated in by officials from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam wherein they agreed to establish a single visa for the five countries as part of its “core cooperation issue” to stimulate the tourism sector in each and all nations.

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Establishing the ASEAN single visa system requires “the identifying and harmonizing of differences in views, policies and development levels, as well as visa fees, administrative procedures, security and benefit sharing of visas, in addition to the common tourism information system among member countries and the need for consistent and coordinated awareness among agencies within each country.”

At present, there is an existing “common Schengen visa model” between the 26 European Union member states. It requires foreign travellers to apply for a visa at the consular office only at the “main destination” of their trips “where they will perform the main purpose of the trip with their longest stay or where they first arrive.” In principle, the common ASEAN tourist visa policy honors non-member countries. In reality however, each nation has specific conditions for visa approval and this has to be heavily considered.

One solution seen to hasten this vision is to create “visa associations” in voluntary and similar groups. Cambodia and Thailand have applied this since 2013 and jointly approved visas for 35 countries and territories. Cambodia again, together with Indonesia, Myanmar and Philippines, implemented a less stricter common visa programme.

In January 2016, during the 19th ASEAN Tourism Ministers’ Meeting of the ASEAN Tourism Forum held in the Philippines, Vietnam expressed its serious efforts in executing certain programmes that work in line with the ASEAN Tourism Strategy 2016 – 2025 which has the vision of creating a common goal of “building a common attractive destination of ASEAN and to develop and effective and dynamic ASEAN Community.”

At present, Vietnam is helping boost its domestic tourism sector by putting into effect specific actions which will later on build its cooperation and competitiveness with the ASEAN Economic Community. It has been working with other countries to apply the “mutual recognition agreement” on tourism workers based on the ASEAN Common Competency Standards for Tourism Professionals, as well as creating the required ASEAN tourism standards and “certification procedures” on tourism-related services such as green hotels, residential accommodation, public toilets, spa services, clean tourist cities and community-based tourism. Nature Tourism; Cultural and Heritage Tourism; Community-Based Tourism; Cruise Tourism; Waterway Tourism and Medical Tourism are also priorities in the creation of a unified ASEAN tourism programme among its member countries.  

Nowadays, tourism plays a large role, to say the least, in its country’s economy, contributing over 12% of the GDP and creating millions of jobs, both direct and indirect. Implementing a common visa system, as well as e-visas and expansion of visa exemption, will greatly boost this sector even more, promoting free travel among a huge number of international tourists and all the other economic benefits that go along with it. Considering the ASESAN community is the third biggest market in the world with a population of more than 600 million people, imagine the impact it has on the country’s tourism and economy as a whole. Moreover, this will encourage intra-regional solidarity and overall reciprocal development among all ASEAN member countries. 

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