Friday , June 21 2024

Vietnam eyes 8 million foreign tourists next year amid visa hassles

Struggling with disappointing numbers since the country reopened its borders after Covid, the tourism industry has set a target of just eight million foreign tourists in 2023.

This is less than half the number in 2019, the year before the pandemic began, when 18 million came.

The industry eyes revenues of VND650 trillion (US$27.3 billion), Ha Van Sieu, deputy general director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said at a recent conference.

This year only around 3.5 million foreign visitors are expected, around 70% of the five-million target, and revenues are estimated to reach VND495 trillion ($20.8 billion), he said as cited by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s portal.

The slow reopening of key tourism markets like China and Russia and visa hassles are the biggest challenges to recovery, he added.

Despite being one of the first Southeast Asian countries to fully reopen to international tourism, Vietnam now lags far behind its neighbors in recovering to pre-pandemic levels.

Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia have achieved their targets for this year.

Amid the gloom in the tourism industry, insiders last week urged the government to waive visa requirements for people from more countries and extend visa-free stays to 30-45 days from the current 15.

Experts also called for expanding the list of countries whose nationals could get visas online and scrapping the travel insurance requirement against Covid for visitors.

Now there is visa exemption for nationals of 24 countries for stays of 15-30 days, except for Chileans, who are allowed 90 days, and a one-month single-entry e-visa for visitors from 80 other countries.

Vietnam opened its borders in March but the number of visitors in the first 11 months of the year was a modest 2.95 million.

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