Aviation experts are calling on the government to consider expanding its visa exemption list and allow a maximum stay of up to 30 days to provide an impetus for post-reopening recovery.
Nguyen Manh Quan, general director of low-cost Bamboo Airways, said at a meeting late last week that easing visa requirements for international tourists was a top priority at this time to boost the recovery of both aviation and tourism.
Although Vietnam reopened to international tourism in March 2022, the aviation and tourism industries have not yet achieved pre-pandemic recovery as expected, Quan said as cited by Voice of Vietnam newspaper.
Aviation expert Can Van Luc said the number of international visitors to Vietnam was lower than expected as the tourism industry only sets a target of 8 million foreign visitors this year, or nearly half of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Expansion of the visa exemption policy is the key to attracting the return of foreign tourists, Luc added.
Vietnam just waives visas for travelers from 25 countries compared to 162 for Malaysia, 157 for the Philippines and 65 for Thailand.
Currently, only citizens of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Kyrgyzstan are offered visa-free stay of 30 days while tourists from Chile and Panama enjoy a 90-day visa waiver.
Visitors from some European countries, Japan and South Korea, Vietnam’s top tourism markets, are permitted to stay in the country for no more than 15 days without applying for a tourist visa.
Luong Hoai Nam, an aviation expert, said industry insiders several times cited visa policy as the major current bottleneck for Vietnam’s tourism and aviation but that no measures have been adopted so far to deal with the problem.
Nam added that some 70-80% of international tourists arrived in Vietnam by airplane and that the slow tourism recovery also means the aviation industry will have to face more challenges.
Last week, foreign-invested firms also urged the Vietnamese government to ease visa restrictions and improve airport infrastructure to turn Vietnam into an attractive tourist destination.
Despite being one of the first Southeast Asian countries to fully reopen to international tourism post Covid, Vietnam received 3.6 million foreign tourists last year, around 20% of pre-pandemic levels.
Many Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia have already offered friendly visa policies with a maximum stay of up to 10 years to attract foreigners.
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