Vietnam plans to extend visa waiver programme

A visa waiver programme in Vietnam, which benefits citizens of five European countries, has proven itself effective, prompting tourism authorities to consider extending its length with better conditions.

In Vietnam’s effort to boost tourism, British, German, French, Italian and Spanish visitors have enjoyed a visa-free travel policy that allows for a 15-day stay for each entry, under a directive valid from 1st July 2015 to the 30th June this year.

With arrivals from those five countries having risen 14 per cent (or 554,000 people) between July 2015 and March 2016 compared to the same period the previous year, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) considers the programme to have been a resounding success.

In fact, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s response to the elevated numbers has been to call on the government to continue the visa-free travel policy with longer validity and allowed stays, the VNAT confirmed earlier this week.

The ministry urges the government to waive visas for the same five countries for the next five years from the new policy’s effective date, with an allowed 30-day stay for each entry.

According to industry insiders, an allowed stay of only 15 days is too short for European holidaymakers. With only a fortnight in Vietnam, tourists find it difficult to take long-haul packages to explore attractions across the country.

Vietnamese and international travel businesses and tour organisers also say the preparation of promotional programmes for tour packages to Vietnam becomes difficult when the visa waiver is only effective for a year.

Last month Vietnam’s international arrivals topped 790,000, up 11.9 per cent from a year earlier. In the January to April period, the country received 3.25 million international visitors, a 17.8 per cent increase from the same period last year.

The four-month number of visitors from the five European countries the visa waiver program applies to rose to nearly 300,000, accounting for 9 per cent of the total.

Article by David Fuller