Restrictive visa policies make Vietnam less attractive to int'l tourists: seminar hinh anh 1Tourists on a cyclo tour in HCM City.(Photo: VNA)
Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - The list of visa-exempt countries should be further expanded so that tourism can quickly recover and improve competitiveness, tourism industry insiders and experts have said.

Vietnam’s restrictive visa policy has impacted international tourist flows to the country, said Luong Hoai Nam, a member of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board.

Vietnam should expand the list of visa-exempt countries to as many as Thailand, which grants visa exemptions for tourists from 68 countries, Nam said.

Tourists from all European countries should be allowed visa exemptions, he said at a seminar held by Thanh Nien (Youth) newspaper on March 10 in Ho Chi Minh City.

The period of stay should be extended to 30-45 days from the current 15 days, he said.

Last year, the country received 3.5 million international visitor arrivals, one-third of Thailand’s figure.

It was equal to only one-fifth of the level that Vietnam achieved in 2019, he added.

According to Tran Nguyen, deputy general director of Sun World, entry visa policy is one of the levers to attract tourists and increase competitiveness.

Vietnam grants single entry visa exemptions for tourists from 24 countries, far fewer than other countries.

Vietnam’s most common visa exemption is 15 days, much shorter than that granted to tourists elsewhere in ASEAN.

Malaysia grants visa exemptions for tourists from 162 countries, Singapore 162 countries, the Philippines 157 countries, Japan 68 countries, the Republic of Korea 66 countries, and Thailand 64 countries.

Thailand has extended the period of stay to 45 days from 30 days for tourists from countries entitled to visa exemptions and 30 days from 15 days for those eligible for a visa on arrival.

Taiwan (China) had resumed issuing Kuan Hung visas to Vietnamese tour groups.

Domestic enterprises in tourism and hospitality have been struggling due to a sharp drop in international tourists over one year after the country reopened its international tourism.

The number of visitors to Sun World Ba Na Hills during Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday was half of the level in 2019.

Sun World Phu Quoc saw a decline of 50% in the number of visitors in the fourth quarter last year and the first quarter this year.

Vietnam is falling behind in the competition to attract international tourists partly due to visa policy “bottlenecks”, she added.

Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, said the strict visa policy had slowed down international travel.

Relaxed visa policies were urgently needed to increase tourist flows and facilitate the recovery of the tourism industry which is a major contributor to economic growth and employment in the city, Hoa said.

The country has set a target of receiving 8 million foreign tourists this year./.