Vietnam has offered visa-free entry for tourists from the key tourism markets of Germany, France, UK, Italy, and Spain from July 1, 2015.
After many debates on zero cost registration free before the Mekong Tourism Forum in Danang last week, Nguyen Van Tuan, director general of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism unexpectedly announced the official approval for visa-free entry for tourists from the five mentioned countries, beginning from July 1, 2015.
Two years ago, Vietnam signed a preliminary agreement with 75 countries to look into visa-free entry. However, this deal has yet to be fully fleshed out before it can come to fruition.
The admission of the five European countries brings the number of countries that can visit Vietnam without a visa to 21. This list includes Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Brunei, Myanmar and Russia. Special exemptions are applied to APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) holders who visit Vietnam for less than 60 days.
“This is a new policy following a new strategy by the Vietnamese government to create better conditions and a more favourable environment for tourism development. It is one of the policies we have repeatedly called upon the government to enact in order to ‘save’ the tourist industry,” said Tuan.
The new policy won tremendous applause from local and foreign audience members at the forum. “This is very good news. We have been waiting for this “open door” decision for a long time, it is a practical encouragement to help tourism businesses explore the market more effectively,” said Tran Chi Cuong, deputy director of the Danang Municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
The decision shows an urgent desire of the tourism sector to have many more countries enjoy visa-free rules from Vietnam or at least a reduction in visa fees. Currently there are many neighbouring countries, like Thailand, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia who offer visa-free entry for a number of countries, while Vietnam only offers this type of entry to a select few.
According to Cuong, the free visa policy for new markets would contribute effectively to bringing a higher number of tourists to Danang, as well as encouraging more airlines to open more direct flights to Danang.
“Among the five new countries to enjoy visa-free entry to Vietnam, Germany, France and the UK are the three key tourism markets sending a stable and large source of tourists to Danang while Italy and Spain are the two new markets that the policy aims to help attract many more tourists,” said Cuong.
The 2015 Mekong Tourism Forum in Danang from June 15-19, features four events during four days, at a zero cost registration fee, including the Mekong Tourism Marketing Workshop, the Mekong Tourism Social Media Boot Camp, the Mekong Tourism Investment Summit, and the main Mekong Tourism Symposium to focus on bringing public and private sectors together to collaborate, discuss, and debate on key issues to position the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) as a single tourism destination, while promoting multi-country travel to secondary destinations.
By Nhat Ha