Saturday , April 20 2024

Europe, US investors urge government to expand visa waiver scheme

Tourism experts have called for visa waivers for nationals of all EU member states, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada and lengthen the period of visa-free stays.

Currently Vietnam exempts only citizens of 25 countries from requiring visas.

“One of the barriers for foreign tourists to visit Vietnam is its complicated and restrictive visa policy,” Mark Koerner, chairman of EuroCham Vietnam’s Tourism and Hospitality Sector Committee, said in a petition submitted to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at the annual Vietnam Business Forum on Sunday.

The petition collates opinions from leading tourism experts and hospitality and tourism industry insiders.

The petition states: “The visa exemption period is too short for many visitors who want to explore the country’s diverse attractions while the e-visa and visa on arrival processes can be time-consuming and inconvenient.”

Gabor Fluit, chairman of EuroCham, said that beautiful landscape and rich cultural heritage make Vietnam a top destination for tourists. “To make the most of tourism potential, the one-month visa exemption should be extended to all EU countries. Furthermore, the implementation of a three-to-six-month visa program for self-sufficient retirees could be a catalyst for the thriving tourism industry like neighboring countries did it,” Gabor said, as cited by Thanh Nien.

Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, and Sweden are currently the European countries whose citizens are permitted to enter Vietnam without having to obtain a tourist visa for stays of up to 15 days.

Greg Testerman, chairman of American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), proposed expanding the list of eligible countries for e-visa issuance and visa exemption to facilitate business travel.

A business visa stay should be extended from the current 30 days and one should be allowed to extend it within Vietnam instead of having to leave the country, the Amcham representative said, according to Thanh Nien.

To attract more tourists and boost tourism spending, the insiders want the government to double the visa-free stay from the current 15 days and consider three to six month visas for retirees.

They also call for improving passenger handling at major airports, especially in Hanoi and HCMC where foreigners have to wait for too long at immigration counters.

They want the number of immigration officers and scanners increased and special lanes introduced for business travelers and families with children.

Last week the government ordered officials to waive visas for more countries and to extend the length of stay for foreign tourists to speed up the recovery of tourism.

Vietnam received 3.6 million foreign tourists last year, or around 20% of pre-Covid numbers.

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