Tourist visa exemptions necessary
Tourism experts have proposed that the government continue offering unilateral tourist visa exemptions for travellers from major markets to attract more visitors and generate revenue.
Tourist visa exemptions, foreign visitors, Japan, the RoK, Russia
Foreign visitors to Hanoi's OId Quarter.
Vietnam has been implementing a pilot visa exemption programme for tourists from Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland for eight years.
While the government is considering the programme’s effectiveness, some economists proposed a halt, stating that no visa fees have been collected from these tourists for the State budget. A tourist visa to Vietnam currently costs US$45 and if the exemption programme continues, the State coffers will lose about US$50 million.
At a recent conference in Hanoi, the Vietnam Tourism Association (VTA) Vice President Vu The Binh argued that the loss of visa fees are just a drop in the ocean compared to the huge amount of revenue the tourism sector brings in every year.
Last year, Vietnam attracted approximately 1.5 million visitors from Japan, the RoK and Russia. If each visitor spent an average of US$1,500 during their stay, the tourism sector would earn US$2.1 billion and contribute US$210 million in VAT to the State budget.
While Vietnam may lose several tens of millions of US dollars from visa exemptions each year, it will gain billions of US dollars from the increasing numbers of foreign tourists visiting the country.
“We should not miss out on US$210 million in VAT only to get US$50 million from visa fees, not to mention the other benefits these markets can bring to the country like employment, for example,” Binh said.
“In addition, visitors from these markets offer high pay for services which suit the national tourism
Visa on arrival Vietnam strategy until 2020 and beyond,” he said.
At the conference, representatives of travel agents said service for customers from every market should be also taken into account as visa procedures are still cumbersome and time consuming.
“Tourists must travel to the embassy to register and wait for a long time to get a visa….. If visa fees reinstated, Russian tourists will choose other destinations instead of Vietnam,” said Luu Duc Ke, Director of Hanoutourist.
According to travel operators, only tourists who enjoy discovering a country’s natural and cultural attraction will wait for visas to be issued. Other tourists consider quick visa clearance procedures, safety and high quality services as most important. Those from Russia and Northern European countries belong to the second group.
“If Vietnam wants to develop marine tourism, it needs to further simplify its policies to support foreign travellers,” said Nguyen Xuan Quynh, managing director of Vietnam Now Travel.
Tour operators calculated that if the government stops the pilot programme, the number of foreign visitors to Vietnam will drop by 50%. They said the time involved to get a visa is a big obstacle to visitors.
It is worth mentioning that visitors from Japan, the RoK and Russia account for a quarter of all foreign arrivals in Vietnam and one third of the country’s total tourism revenue.
Pham Tu, former General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), recalled that after visas were first waived for tourists from Japan in 2005, the policy proved successful and it was replicated for visitors from other key markets.
“Tourist visa exemptions are one of the crucial factors in encouraging foreign visitors to Vietnam,” said Tu. “I think the government should expand the pilot programme to other key markets.”
In Southeast Asia, Malaysia offers visa exemptions for tourists from 155 countries and territories, while Thailand applies a similar policy for tourists from 55 foreign markets. Indonesia also grants visas on arrival at its border gates to tourists from 24 countries.
Incumbent VNAT General Director Nguyen Van Tuan declared that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will propose that the government continue the visa exemption programme.
Complicated procedures hinder Vietnam’s tourism development
Economists have urged management agencies to simplify the administrative procedures in order to attract more and more foreign travelers to Vietnam.
The US film studio came to Vietnam to survey the possibility of producing and filming the fourth chapter of Bourne, a global famous television film series, with the acting of Matt Damon
Vietnam has failed to become the destination of a filming project worth 150 million dollars directed by Universal Studios, just because of the overly complicated procedures.
The information has been released by Baron Ah Moo, a senior executive of Indochina Land at a forum held recently.
According to Baron Ah Moo, the US film studio came to Vietnam to survey the possibility of producing and filming the fourth chapter of Bourne, a global famous television film series, with the acting of Matt Damon.
However, as it took too much time to negotiate with relevant
Universal felt that it would be too difficult to get licenses for filming. Besides, the obstacles in logistics has made the film studio to choose another place for filming – another South East Asian country.
The filming project is considered the “golden opportunity” for Vietnam to promote tourism, especially when this is a famous movie piece, because movies always have big impacts on the development of the tourism industry. Also according to Baron Ah Moo, this is really a “regrettable incident”, and it would have been much better if relevant agencies could have made quick decisions in such cases.
Vietnam’s tourism industry has rapidly regained the fast growth rate after the global crisis period, with the number of foreign travelers increasing by 34 percent in 2010 in comparison with the year before. The upward trend still can be seen in this year with 2 million foreign travelers having arrived in Vietnam by the end of April, an increase of 10.5 percent over the same period of the last year.
According to the General Statistics Office, the hotel, tourism and restaurant business brought the turnover of 187 trillion dong, or 9.4 billion dollars in 2010, accounting for 9.5 percent of the total GNP of the year.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council WTTC, the tourism industry can create 1.4 million direct jobs in 2011, and another 3.8 indirect jobs.
Despite the great achievements, tourism firms still believe that the results have still been far from the potentials of Vietnam.
The tourism working group of the Vietnam Business Forum has recently made some proposals in order to help develop Vietnam’s tourism.
First, the working group has suggested establishing a tourism consultancy council which serves as the bridge for the state management agencies and the