Vietnam has been closed to international visitors since March 2020 and has imposed several lockdowns in various regions since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Vietnamese Government has decided to fully reopen the tourism market from March 15. However, travel firms fear that foreign travelers won’t visit the country because of complicated procedures for entry visas.
A group of foreign travelers recently transiting at Singapore airport and applying for visas to Vietnam faced a very complicated process. The travel firm had to ask agencies and local authorities about the procedures before obtaining visas, the Vietnamnet reported.
Nguyen Khoa Luan, CEO of Anh Viet Hop On – Hop Off Vietnam, described the visa application process he has experienced.
“We paint a beautiful picture about the revival of tourism post-Covid. However, it’s not easy to attract travelers with the current requirements,” he said.
Vietnam is granting visas the old way, he said. A traveler in Paris can visit the Vietnamese Embassy to ask for a visa. Meanwhile, travelers in other regions in France have to go to Paris to ask for visa, then stay in Paris, or return home and return some days later to get the visa. It’s a time consuming process.
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CEO of Image Travel Nguyen Ngoc Toan said the tourist visas that Vietnam grants are single-entry, which causes inconveniences for travelers.
For example, a French traveler flying to Vietnam can leave and go to Cambodia. After visiting the Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap in Cambodia, if they want to enter Vietnam once again, they have to pay for a new visa because under current visa policy, tourist visas are valid only once.
Therefore, most travelers choose to go to Bangkok and fly back to France the next day. This means that Vietnam loses revenue from the one-night stay of the traveler and service use for that night.
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Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, Deputy CEO of Vietravel, said full tourism opening is near (March 15), so authorities need to immediately restore the unilateral and bilateral visa waiver policies as they did before the Covid-19 outbreak. This is an important factor to attract tourists to Vietnam.
Luan said Vietnam’s visa policy needs to be more open and convenient to compete with rivals and lure travelers.
In Turkey, for example, tourists can use e-visas, show their passport and enter the country. Cambodia has also opened the market widely. There is no reason for Vietnam to set up many procedures which may become barriers to foreign travelers, he said.
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Luong Hoai Nam, an aviation and tourism expert, stressed that in order to revive tourism, Vietnam has to restore the visa policy it applied before the pandemic and expand the list of countries to enjoy visa waivers.
Vietnam now waives visas for 24 countries, a very small number compared with other countries that are rivals in tourism destinations.
Thailand, for example, waives visas for citizens from 64 countries, Singapore for 120-130 countries, and Indonesia and Malaysia for 150.
Vietnam should waive visas for all countries in the EU. “Why does Vietnam waive visas for German and French travelers, but not Czech, Hungarian and Polish?” he said. “Australia and New Zealand also could be added to the list for visa waivers.”
As for China and the US, two vast markets, Vietnam needs to negotiate for visas valid for 5-10 years. China and the US now grant 10-year visas to each other.
Vietnamese, when entering Canada, can get visas valid for 10 years, and when entering South Korea, can get visas valid for 5 years.
“In order to develop tourism, the visa policy needs to be open, at least as open as Thailand,” Nam said.
The Government Office has sent a document to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), requesting to resume the visa waiver policy applied to travelers from some countries, Vietnamnet’s Tran Chung reported.