Foreign tourists visit One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi (Photo: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) – International visitors to Vietnam witnessed a modest year-on-year decrease of 0.2 percent to 7.94 million in 2015, the latest report from the General Statistics Office (GSO) reveals.

The slight drop - the first since 2009, came despite the five consecutive months of increases in the number.

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the number of foreign arrivals gained a year-on-year surge of 5.1 percent to 593,566 in July, 7.5 percent to 664,985 in August, 8.3 percent to 626,324 in September, and 16.1 percent to 649.099 in October, in addition to 20.4 percent to 732,740 in November.

The GSO said that this year visitors travelling by sea surged significantly by 27.5 percent over the same period last year, while visitors arriving by air increased 1 percent and arrivals by road plunged 6.5 percent.

Four Asian countries, recording rises in number of visitors to Vietnam were the Republic of Korea, up 31.3 percent, Singapore up 17 percent, Malaysia up 4.1 percent, and Japan which rose 3.6 percent. However, the number of visitors from some other Asian nations dropped. These were Cambodia, down 44 percent, Laos, which dropped 17 percent, Thailand dropped 13.1 percent, and Indonesia dropped 9.3 percent, in addition to China which dropped 8.5 percent.

Modest decreases were also witnessed in several markets included those of Russia, France, Sweden and Australia.

During the period, Vietnam saw a surge in the number of visitors from Africa by 44.3 percent, Italy by 10.4 and Spain by 10.6 percent, and the United States by 10.7 percent, in addition to Netherlands which rose 7.8 percent, and the United Kingdom (UK) which rose 5.2 percent.

In early 2016, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) would ask the Government to grant an extension on visa exemptions for visitors of five western European countries. That would ensure that tourism companies make plans on promotion and advertisements in the long-term, head of the VNAT Nguyen Van Tuan said.

Since July 1, 2015, visitors from the UK, France, Germany, and Italy, along with Spain have been allowed to enter the country without a visa for 15 days. The visa exemption will last until June 30, 2016.

However, industry insiders suggested that this should be increased to 30 days, or at least 21, since visitors from such far places would like to stay for longer durations. They also called for continuing with the policy for at least two years and extending it to all European countries.-VNA