Vietnam sees chance to become destination for early retirees

By VNA   July 18, 2023 | 04:31 am PT
Vietnam sees chance to become destination for early retirees
Foreign tourists walk in Hoi An, January 2023. Photo by Xuan Phuong
Many travel experts believe that Vietnam has a great opportunity to become a paradise for global retirees – a group of wealthy tourists with the ability to stay long-term and spend generously.

While many Southeast Asian countries have already introduced policies targeting the segment, Vietnam has yet to take any proactive steps.

According to a survey by Insider and Morning Consult, a considerable number of global citizens are pursuing FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) who want to dedicate up to 70% of their income to be able to leave the workforce before reaching old age. This has long been a global trend, but is now reaching Vietnam’s shores.

Seizing this opportunity, Thailand promptly introduced a special visa policy for foreign retirees called the "retirement visa." Accordingly, as long as a foreigner is 50 years old or older and has an account with a balance of over 800,000 THB opened in Thailand, he or she can apply for a one-year Thai visa.

Not far behind Thailand, the Malaysian government launched its "Malaysia My Second Home" program in 2002, which offers extendable visas after a decade for foreigners who come to retire and live in the country.

Experts from U.S. Travel+Leisure magazine have described Vietnam as a very suitable place for retirement, especially for those who enjoy adventure, beautiful beaches, landscapes, cuisine, history, and unique local culture.

Moreover, the cost of living in Vietnam is only about half that of the U.S., with rental prices being some 75% lower. The costs to live and pay for houses in Ho Chi Minh City is approximately 62% and 83% lower than in New York, respectively.

With the advantages, in 2022, Travel+Leisure voted Vietnam as one of the eight ideal countries for foreigners to retire. It was the only Asian country in the list.

These indicate significant opportunities for Vietnam’s green economy sector and overall trade and service industries, as retirees tend to stay longer and spend more during their time in the country.

So far, Vietnam has yet to implemented any specific policies to lure retiree tourists, as it has only exempted visas for 24 tourism markets with a limited stay duration of 15-30 days.

The narrow "doorway" makes it challenging for foreign retirees to choose anything other than short-term holidays when coming to Vietnam.

Associate Professor Dr. Pham Hong Long, head of the Tourism Department at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under the Vietnam National University, Hanoi, said the new type of visitors can produce many job opportunities and profits, therefore the country should make policies to attract them without further delay.

Experts have suggested that Vietnam develop infrastructure, invest in building healthy green living spaces, and leverage the unique charm of its cultural identity and local cuisine. Most importantly, the nation should consider expanding its policy regarding a retirement visa.

Not only is the foreign retiree market linked to the FIRE trend not being fully tapped into, but the domestic market for retirees is also receiving little attention. In fact, only a few major travel companies have designed specific tour packages for elderly customers.

According to research conducted by the Institute for Tourism Development under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the number of retiree tourists is on the rise. A significant portion of them prefer sustainable and eco-friendly consumption, as well as environmentally-friendly shopping. This group of visitors falls under a unique category, requiring a high level of professionalism in tour planning and organization.

To capture their attention, experts recommended the domestic tourism and healthcare sectors collaborate to build programs that combine tourism activities with health recovery treatments for elderly travelers, thus enhancing the value of their travel experiences.

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