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Foreign tourists upbeat as minister seeks visa waiver expansion

PremiumBy Hoang Phong   August 12, 2022 | 08:37 pm PT
Foreign tourists upbeat as minister seeks visa waiver expansion
Foreign tourists take a coracle tour at Bay Mau nipa palm forest near Hoi An ancient town in central Vietnam, June 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh
Foreign tourists have hailed as "positive step" Vietnam's tourism minister proposing visa exemption be expanded for major markets like Europe and the U.S.

Nguyen Van Hung, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, had proposed earlier this week that Vietnam expands visa exemption for tourists from Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Europe, and the U.S. to boost tourism recovery after more than two years of pandemic restrictions.

Michael Burger from the U.S., who visited Vietnam in May, said the proposal was definitely a positive step toward making travel to Vietnam easier.

"As a regular visitor to Vietnam, I feel delighted to hear this news," Burger told VnExpress International.

It would help increase Vietnam's tourism competitiveness among Southeast Asian nations that already exempt American passport holders from having to get a visa for stays of under 30 days.

Ken Rafter from Australia said it would be "fantastic news" if Australians are exempted from obtaining a visa prior to visiting Vietnam.

"When Vietnam reopened to international tourism in March, my family had a terrible time attempting to obtain visas before our flights departed from Sydney," Rafter said.

Ken Rafter (2nd, L) takes a photo with his family on a cruise in Ha Long Bay April 2022 as Vietnam reopened international tourism. Photo courtesy of Ken Rafter

Ken Rafter (2nd, L) with his family on a cruise ship in Ha Long Bay in April 2022. Photo courtesy of Ken Rafter

"Instead of taking three days to obtain visas as usual, it took us up to 12 days. So I certainly see not having to obtain a visa before entry as a positive thing."

Nitesh Chavda from India, who plans to visit Vietnam in the next two months, was also happy with the tourism minister's proposal.

"Good news! If the Vietnamese government offers a visa-free policy for Indians, I believe many Indian tourists will visit the country," he said.

India is currently seen as a country with potential to boost post-pandemic tourism recovery in Vietnam.

Vietnamese authorities are now issuing up to 6,000 visas a day to Indians, a 24-fold increase from pre-Covid times, said Pham Sanh Chau, the country's ambassador in New Delhi.

Vietnam reopened its borders to foreign tourists last November before allowing quarantine-free entry from March 15.

In addition to 24 tourism markets eligible for 15 to 30-day visa exemption, Vietnam now only issues a one-month single-entry e-visa to visitors from other countries.

Some tourists want the government to return to the three-month visa policy that was the norm before the pandemic.

Justin Douglas from the U.S. said: "Without extending the permitted length of stay, it does not really change my opinion on the visa policy. 30 days is already fairly restrictive, but considering that most journeys from the U.S. take 30 hours (plus jet lag recovery time), it doesn't make much sense to come for a visa-exempt stay of just 15 days when there are plenty of other places closer to home."

Douglas believed that the 90-day duration of stay needs to be brought back to attract tourists.

"I am currently in Da Nang to visit my friends I haven't seen since 2020 but counting days is stressful."

Vietnam has welcomed 954,000 foreign arrivals in the first seven months this year, up nine times year-on-year.

The country hopes to welcome five million foreign tourists this year, around 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

 
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