Another week, another hopeful sign that Vietnam is committed to reforming its cumbersome tourist visa policies after 12 consecutive months of falling international arrivals.
“The hassle of getting a visa is seriously hampering Vietnam in attracting tourists,” Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the National Administration of Tourism, told yesterday. “The application process is easier, faster and more convenient in other countries in the region.”
Tuan added that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has agreed to offer “unilateral visa exemptions” to countries that “that have sent high numbers of visitors to Vietnam in recent years.” However, there was no mention of what countries are being considered.
Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, and Sweden are the only counties whose citizens currently enjoy visa waivers in Vietnam. Tourism officials have previously called on the PM to add Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK to the list.
Perhaps even more encouraging is the news that the country will set up a US$100 million fund to better contend with its regional competition for tourism dollars.
Tuan told the newspaper that the money will be used to train hospitality workers, hold roadshows and set up overseas tourism offices. Around 30% of the money will come from the state budget, with the remainder provided by tourism companies.
To better compete with countries such as Singapore and Thailand, Vietnam is also aiming to improve its facilities and simplify the visa process, Tuan said.
“We need to improve the domestic tourism environment to be more attractive to visitors,” he added. “It’s crucial.”