Vietnam should extend its visa waiver program for tourists from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K., and consider adding India and Australia to the list soon, the Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Association has suggested.
The country has offered single-entry visa exemptions to citizens of these five European countries since mid-2015. The relaxed visa policy, which allows the eligible visitors to stay up to 15 days in Vietnam, is expected to expire by the end of this July.
“We suggest the government continue to extend the policy, at least through June 2018,” Nguyen Khanh Phuong, vice chairwoman of the tourism association in Ho Chi Minh City, told the Saigon Times.
She said the government should make the decision soon so that the industry can have enough time to get ready for any policy change.
The government should also waive visa requirements for tourists from other potential feeder markets, including Australia and India, Phuong said.
Currently Vietnam is also offering visa-free entry for tourists from Japan, South Korea, and neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
International arrivals in Vietnam reached a record high of 10 million last year, up from nearly 8 million in 2015, official data showed.
Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the national tourism administration, attributed the impressive surge to the government’s efforts to relax visa policy.
The government has also approved the much-touted online visa system for travelers on short holidays or business visits. The new visa rule, which is expected to come into effect in February, will not apply to all visitors but will be limited to those from Vietnam’s top tourist markets.
Tourism made up around 6.6 percent of Vietnam’s gross domestic product last year.