Vietnam mulls extending visa waiver for five European countries

A visa waiver program in Vietnam benefiting citizens of five European countries which began last July and ends next month has proven itself effective, prompting tourism authorities to extend its length with better conditions.

In Vietnam's effort to boost tourism, German, French, British, 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 July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.

With arrivals from those five countries having risen 14 percent between July 2015 and March 2016 year on year to 554,000, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) considers the program a success.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s response to the elevated numbers has been a call on the government to continue the visa-free travel policy with longer validity and allowed stays, 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, as they typically are allowed 20 to 30 days of annual leave.

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 organizers also say the preparation of promotional programs for tour packages to Vietnam becomes difficult when the visa waiver is only effective for a year.

European tourists sometimes make travel plans as early as one year in advance, so a short visa-free travel policy discourages them from choosing Vietnam as a destination, according to travel industry experts.

Last month Vietnam’s international arrivals topped 790,000, up 11.9 percent from a year earlier. In the Jan-Apr period, the country received 3.25 million international visitors, a 17.8 percent 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 nine percent of the total.

Source: Tuoi Tre News

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