5 million foreign tourists unreachable target: experts

By Nguyen Quy   June 3, 2022 | 04:43 pm PT
5 million foreign tourists unreachable target: experts
A foreign tourist takes photos of a hot-air balloon on Da Nang beach, April 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
Tourism experts suspect Vietnam will not be able to fulfill its target of welcoming five million foreign tourists this year, citing visa policies as a key challenge.

Nguyen Chau A, CEO of Oxalis Adventure, the company that takes people on exclusive cave tours in the central province of Quang Binh, told VnExpress International that it was not easy to achieve the target as Vietnam still presents the barriers of unattractive visa policies, limited flights and lack of tourism promotion campaigns.

With many of Vietnam’s major tourism markets like China, Japan and South Korea not having fully eased their Covid restrictions, the target becomes an even bigger challenge, he said.

"If the government relaxes visa policies and international flights are fully resumed to what they were before the pandemic, I expect the country will be able welcome around two million foreign tourists this year," he added.

Pham Ha, CEO of the Lux Group, who has over 20 years of experience in the tourism business, also expressed skepticism that the tourism industry would be able to meet its target.

"After the pandemic, it’s not easy to achieve the same number of foreign tourists, especially when Vietnam’s major tourism markets have not yet fully reopened their tourism.

"In the context of the number of foreign tourists remaining low, the most important thing we can do now is to diversify tourism experiences to increase their spending," Ha said.

The total number of foreign visitors in the first five months of this year was just 365,000, less than 10 percent of the five-million target.

This means that Vietnam has to welcome 650,000 foreign arrivals a month for the rest of the year to meet the target.

This is very difficult, given that Thailand, a Southeast Asian tourism paradise, has only received 200,000-300,000 tourists a month on average so far and it also expects to welcome up to 500,000 arrivals a month for the rest of the year.

Several industry insiders have proposed that the government boost tourism promotion campaigns and relax current visa policies to give the tourism industry a big hit.

In order to attract foreign tourists, Ha proposed that the length of visa-free stay for tourists from Japan, South Korea and Western European economies be extended from the current 15 days to 30; and that visa exemption be granted to more tourists from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America and India.

Nguyen Son Thuy, vice chairman of Quang Nam Tourism Association, also felt the target of five million foreign tourists in 2022 could be "very challenging" for the industry.

Thuy proposed at a conference on June 1 that the tourism industry should organize road shows to introduce Vietnam's tourism hotspots and attractions in key markets or destinations that have fully reopened tourism links with the country.

Starting March 15, Vietnam has allowed quarantine-free travel and resumed its pre-pandemic visa exemption policy for citizens from 24 countries.

However, the country only issues a one-month single-entry e-visa to visitors from other countries, and has not resumed issuing three-month visas that was the norm earlier.

Many foreign tourists have said these current policies are unfriendly and expressed hope the government would extend tourist visa durations.

In 2019, before the onset of the pandemic, Vietnam received a record 18 million foreign tourists.

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