Some Vietnamese travel agencies expressed surprise over losing accreditation to apply for Japanese visas on behalf of domestic tour groups.
The Japanese Embassy in Vietnam announced Monday that it will not entertain visa applications submitted by seven Hanoi-based travel firms. It said the agencies had violated the commitments they had made, as evidenced by some of their clients going missing after reaching Japan on tourist visas.
Related: How to get your Vietnam Visa Online
The Hanoi branch of leading travel agency Vietravel was suspended from submitting Japanese visa applications for six months starting July 1.
Some of the blacklisted travel companies said they did not understand why they had lost their accreditation and are working with the Japanese side to deal with the issue.
Truong Tuong Lan, director of Nam Cuong Tourism Co., Ltd, one of the eight blacklisted travel agencies, said the embassy has informed that 48 tourists that his firm had submitted visa applications for had gone missing for a year starting March 2018. However, the embassy had provided no documentation proving this, he said.
“The decision from the embassy has affected the prestige of our firm,” Lan added.
According to the agreement signed between Nam Cuong Tourism Co. with the embassy, the company was accredited to receive Japanese visa applications from Vietnamese tour groups, but not directly organize tours, Lan explained.
Some customers of the company waiting to fly to Japan in the coming days have had their applications rejected following the decision by the Japanese Embassy and the company has asked it to explain the rejection to the customers, he said.
On Wednesday, the firm sent a document to the Travel Department under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism as well as the Hanoi’s Tourism Department, seeking their help in making clear the embassy’s announcement.
Another travel agency’s representative, who declined to be named, said: “The embassy did not deliver an official announcement on the reason. They requested company representatives to go to the embassy to work on the issue.”
A representative from the HCMC-based Viettravel tour operator whose branch in Hanoi was suspended said they had arranged for more than 566 tour groups with nearly 17,000 tourists to visit Japan in 2018.
Three of them have gone unaccounted for in Japan while two others returned to Vietnam later than scheduled, and this has been stated as the reason for the embassy’s decision.
Currently, there are more than 70 Vietnamese travel firms accredited by the Japanese Embassy in Vietnam to apply for visas on behalf of Vietnamese tour groups in an effort to attract more Vietnamese holiday-goers.
Thanks to visa exemptions, duty-free promotions and ancient tourist attractions, Japan has been attracting increasing numbers of Vietnamese tourists in recent years. Last year, 34,000 Vietnamese citizens visited Japan, up 36.7 percent from a year ago.
The number of Vietnamese residents working and living in Japan also jumped 26 percent from a year earlier to 330,835 in 2018, accounting for 8 percent of foreign nationals in the country, the Japan Times reported. It said this growth had propelled Vietnamese to overtake the Filipinos as the third largest minority group in Japan, behind the Chinese and South Koreans.
The growing presence of Japanese companies in Vietnam has also sparked increased interest among younger Vietnamese to study and/or undertake technical training programs in Japan in the hope of landing well-paid jobs, the report said.
However, Vietnam has also gained notoriety for tourists fleeing from tour groups and absconding in order to stay on and work illegally in the countries they visit.
Last December, Taiwanese authorities decided to suspend the Kuan Hung visa program following the infamous case of 152 Vietnamese tourists going missing en masse after arriving in the territory on tourist visas.
The program, launched in 2015, allows citizens of six countries including Vietnam to visit Taiwan by applying for electronic visas without paying visa fees.
The Taiwanese Tourism Bureau resumed the visa program from March 20 for select Vietnamese travel agencies under stricter regulations.