Illustrative image (Source: visa.vietnambooking.com)
Hanoi (VNA) – Visa exemption policy is one of the leading factors behind the growing number of international visitors, particularly those from Western Europe, to Vietnam this year, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).

The numbers of tourists from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, the five countries enjoying the 15-day visa exemption, have grown between 13.8 and 30.1 percent since the policy was applied in July 2015, compared to an average 5.35 percent growth recorded in 2010-2014.

The VNAT said visa exemption has been a global trend with the rate of tourists required to have visas to get access to global destinations reducing from 77 percent in 2008 to 61 percent in 2015.

Vietnam’s neighbouring countries also use visa exemption to attract more visitors. Indonesia has exempted visa for citizens of 169 countries; the Philippines, 165; Malaysia, 164; Singapore, 160; Thailand, 61; Laos, 40; and Cambodia, 25.

Vietnam have exempted visas for citizens of only 22 countries so far, with bilateral 30-day visa exemption arrangements with nine ASEAN countries, bilateral 15-day visa exemption for citizens from Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark until the end of 2019, visa exemption to Belarusians until June 30, 2020, while the 15-day visa exemption to citizens from the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy has just been extended to July 1, 2017.

Considering the time taken to draft business plans and carry out tourism promotion activities as well as the travelling habit of the target tourism markets, the tourism sector has proposed that the visa exemption for the five West European countries should be implemented over a longer period and the visa-free stay should also be extended to 30 days.

The sector also asked for the continuance of visa exemption for package-tour tourists from 13 countries – Australia, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, the United States, Canada, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and India, which make up between 46 and 50 percent of total international arrivals.

In the first half this year, Vietnam welcomed 4.7 million international visitors, a year-on-year increase of 21.3 percent.-VNA