Vietnam behind Southeast Asian neighbors in international tourism recovery race

By Hoang Phong   November 2, 2022 | 04:35 pm PT
Vietnam behind Southeast Asian neighbors in international tourism recovery race
Foreign tourists drink beer on Bui Vien Street in downtown HCMC, October 30, 2022. Photo by Hoang Phong
Several Southeast Asian countries have fulfilled their target of foreign tourist numbers for 2022, but Vietnam lags far behind this year's goal.

In late August, Malaysia announced that it had already fulfilled its target of 4.5 million international visitors in 2022 and the country was instead aiming at a new target of 9.2 million.

Singapore, which expects to receive 4-6 million international visitors in 2022, had received 3.74 million as of September.

Thailand, where tourism is a main economic sector, had welcomed about 7.35 million international visitors as of October 26, and has expressed confidence in reaching its 10 million target for the year.

Vietnam, which reopened international tourism mid-March, received over 2.35 million foreign visitors in the January-October period, less than half of this year's five-million target.

Tourism insiders are worried the industry will struggle to fulfill its goal, given global factors like inflation and the conflict in Ukraine, as also the fact that Vietnam has not resumed issuing three-month multiple-entry visas.

Pham Ha, CEO of Lux Group, which specializes in organizing luxury cruise tours, said it would be difficult for the tourism industry to reach the five-million target this year with visa policies remaining a bottleneck.

Ha said his company has lost scores of foreign tourists due to visa issues since March 15.

Nguyen Chau A, CEO of Oxalis Adventures, which takes people on exclusive cave tours in the central province of Quang Binh, also said it was not easy to achieve the target as Vietnam struggles with barriers of visa policies, limited flights and lack of tourism promotion campaigns.

Apart from granting visa exemption to 24 tourism markets for stays of 15-30 days, Vietnam now only issues a one-month single-entry e-visa to visitors from other countries.

Some foreign tourists told VnExpress International they would not return to Vietnam until the country resumes its three-month multi-entry visa that it had before the pandemic.

Michael Jason of Mexico said he was living in Cambodia now on a retirement visa.

"Vietnam has not changed its 30-day visa policy. I will not visit Vietnam until longer visas are available."

Eric Warnken from Germany said many of his friends want to enjoy the winter holiday in Vietnam but when they hear about the current visa rules, they lose interest in going there.

"No older citizen wants border runs after 30 days. Instead they visit better destinations with longer visa stays like Thailand."

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