Visa waivers for all EU citizens could give Vietnam regional advantage

By Hoang Vu   July 26, 2023 | 03:30 pm PT
Visa waivers for all EU citizens could give Vietnam regional advantage
Foreign tourists take a group photo at Southeast Asia's deepest canyon Tu San in Ha Giang Province in northern Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Ha Giang Department of Tourism
The exemption of tourist visas for citizens of all 27 EU member countries would help Vietnamese tourism compete with neighbors like Thailand and Singapore, experts say.

"Vietnam should consider waiving visas for all EU citizens to boost its tourism industry and strengthen its ties with the European Union," Martin Koerner, head of tourism working group at Vietnam Business Forum, told VnExpress International. "It will attract more visitors from the EU market, which has a population of over 500 million and a high demand for travel as well as high budget."

The European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam last week 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.

Koerner said waiving visas for all EU citizens would enhance Vietnam's competitiveness with other Southeast Asian countries that already offer visa-free access for EU travelers, such as Thailand and Singapore.

He also noted that this would also help foster trade and investment opportunities, and cultural exchanges, between Vietnam and the EU, especially after the implementation of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.

In addition, granting visa-free entry for European citizens would enhance bilateral relations and cooperation between Vietnam and the EU in various sectors such as trade, investment, education, culture and security, he said.

Eurocham said its letter had garnered substantial support from Team Europe, with the appeal being co-signed by 18 ambassadors of EU members to Vietnam, as well as the chairs of national European business associations.

The business group's chairman Gabor Fluit said European travelers tend to stay much longer, often for two weeks or more.

Nuno F. Ribeiro, a member of EuroCham's tourism committee, said granting visa-free entry for all EU citizens will help attract visitors from countries with higher discretionary income and thus more spending power, which will benefit the Vietnamese economy.

Ribeiro, Deputy Senior Program Manager in Tourism and Hospitality at RMIT Vietnam, said in addition to visa relaxation, Vietnam should invest in infrastructure such as airports, roads, and public transportation to facilitate luxury tourism.

"Vietnam could focus on developing luxury tourism by building high-end resorts, spas, and other luxury accommodations that cater to the needs of high-spending tourists," he said.

Many European tourists are interested in experiencing local culture and traditions. Vietnam could promote cultural experiences that are unique to the country and highlight its rich history and heritage, he added.

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

There were over 695,000 European visitors to Vietnam during the period, only half of pre-pandemic levels, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

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