The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has proposed visa exemptions for visitors from certain markets in North America, Europe, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia, and a lengthening of visa-free duration for other markets to attract more foreign travelers to Vietnam, the Saigon Times Daily reported.

The proposal was made at a meeting between representatives of local tourism and trade agencies, tour operators, transport companies, big hotels, and the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) in Hanoi last week.

At the meeting, experts said visa exemption has been applied to a limited number of markets and visa procedures are still time-consuming. Moreover, visa on arrival has been granted to visitors from certain markets but the beneficiaries are required to complete complicated procedures two days before they arrive in Vietnam.

To attract more international travelers, the tourism body wants a visa waiver for those coming from the major visitor-generating and fast-growing markets. In addition, longer free visas of up to 30 days instead of 15 days have been sought for citizens from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

VNAT has also urged streamlining visa-on-arrival procedures and considering issuing electronic visas.

VNAT expected the changes together with future promotions and improvements in quality of tourism products and services will help the local tourism sector sustain growth at least in the next two years.

Similar changes were also suggested by the Tourism Working Group under the Vietnam Business Forum at a mid-term dialogue between the Government and the business community in Hanoi early last month.

Figures of the General Statistics Office showed the number of foreign visitors to Vietnam dropped significantly in June and the number of Chinese and international tourists entering via the border gates with China halved against May.

However, the total number of foreign arrivals in the first half of this year still rose 21.1 percent year-on-year rise to 4.3 million.-VNA