Vietnam’s Tourism Advisory Board has said the current visa exemptions for citizens of select European countries should be renewed for five years and that eligible visitors should be allowed to stay a whole month, instead of only 15 days.
This scheme, if not extended, will expire on June 30, affecting travelers from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The advisory board is a grouping of industry stakeholders set up in late 2012, including major tour operators and hotels.
In its proposal sent to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the board said the visa-free period should be 30 days, giving tourists more time to explore the country during their stay and allowing the industry to earn more. They should also be allowed to travel to other countries and resume their Vietnam trip within that period, it suggested.
The Tourism Advisory Board has also proposed including more European countries as well as Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the visa waiver program.
The proposal came a few weeks after a similar call from the Vietnam Tourism Association, which is also seeking visa-free entry for visitors from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and former Soviet states Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Vietnam has set a target of welcoming 20 million foreign visitors in 2020 and develop tourism into a key economic sector, and the association said that one way of achieving that goal is to provide visa waivers for important markets, the Vietnam News Agency reported.
The association has said that the e-visas introduced last February will not be able to replace visa exemptions.
Vietnam has been offering single-entry visa exemptions to citizens from Western European countries since mid-2015. Arrivals from the markets increased between 13-32 percent in the first four months, compared to the same period last year.
Nguyen Xuan Hai, director of the company La Palanche Voyages, is a proponent of a longer stay for tourists under the waiver scheme.
“Tourists now only visit for 15 days. If the visa exemption duration is extended to 30 days, the industry could get an extra of up to $1,500 per visitor. The total revenue would increase significantly,” Hai said.
More than 85 percent of countries have taken measures to simplify immigration procedures in the last two years, according to the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017. The report ranked Vietnam lowest among ASEAN countries in international openness.