Visa extension no 'magic wand' to lure foreign tourists

By Tu Nguyen   July 28, 2023 | 03:52 pm PT
Visa extension no 'magic wand' to lure foreign tourists
Foreign tourists walk in Hoi An ancient town, March 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh
Vietnam's recent visa extension policy was a good move but "not a magic wand" that will immediately attract more foreign visitors, according to industry insiders.

The National Assembly on June 24 approved extending tourist visas from 30 to 90 days and prolonging visa-free periods for selected countries to 45 days, all beginning August 15.

Phan Dinh Hue, director of Vietcircle Tourism Company, said Vietnam's previous visa policy had greatly hindered the experience of international visitors due to the short length of stay.

He appreciated the Vietnamese government’s recent efforts to ease visa requirements.

"However, the upcoming visa extension is not a magic wand. The new policy will have a good impact, but not immediate this year," said Hue.

He said Vietnam needs to prioritize improving its tourism marketing campaign abroad.

At the macro level, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand should sit down to come up with joint visa arrangements, he suggested.

Accordingly, tourists who apply for a one-country visa could also visit the other countries, creating a "four countries, one destination" experience.

Travel industry players generally agree that the visa extension policy was a good move, but luring international visitors still depends on other factors such as tourism products and marketing policies.

Nguyen Nguyet Van Khanh, deputy marketing head of Vietravel, said Western and American tourists book tours from six months to a year before their departure, therefore it will take time for the new visa policy to bring larger numbers of European and American tourists.

Nguyen Thanh Son, deputy director of BenThanh Tourist's international center, said that his company has sent notices to a number of partners in important markets such as Romania, the Netherlands, Germany, France and the U.S., informing them of Vietnam's new visa policy.

However, the company has not yet received official documentation on certain aspects of the new visa policies, such as which countries the new e-visa period extension to 90 days will be applied to, and which countries will reap the benefits of the increase in the duration of unilateral visa-free stays to 45 days.

Son said the European tourist market prefers multiple entries and long-term visas. The new visa policy promises to bring comfort to visitors during entry and exit procedures.

The European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam recently called on Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to waive visas for the remaining 20 countries in the 27-member EU.

Now only nationals of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland can enter Vietnam without a visa.

Vietnam welcomed 5.5 million foreign tourists in the first half of this year, 69% of this year's eight-million target.

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