Vietnam is anticipating an impressive surge in foreign tourists this year, with a target of 12 million visitors, exceeding the previously set goal of 8 million, according to Hoang Nhan Chinh, Secretariat Director of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB).
On June 24, the Vietnamese National Assembly approved amendments and additions to the Law on the Exit and Entry of Vietnamese Citizens, as well as the Law on Foreigners’ Entry into, Exit from, Transit through, and Residence in Vietnam. These changes allow foreigners who obtain an e-visa to enter and exit Vietnam an unlimited number of times within a 90-day period, eliminating the need for additional visa procedures.
Under the new policy, citizens of countries unilaterally exempted from visas by Vietnam will receive temporary residence for 45 days, an increase from the previous 15-day period. These individuals can also be considered for visa issuance and temporary residence extensions in accordance with regulations.
Presently, the e-visas issued by the Immigration Department to foreigners through the electronic transaction system are valid only once. Vietnam currently grants e-visas to citizens of 80 countries.
Chinh emphasized that Vietnam’s more favorable visa policy will greatly benefit the tourism industry, particularly as the peak season for international tourism approaches later this year.
The improved policy is expected to diversify the tourism sector’s markets, increase visitor numbers, prolong their stays, and boost their spending. Moreover, it will lead to an increase in air passenger traffic, facilitate international trade exchanges, and attract more foreign investors to the country, according to Chinh.
However, it should be noted that Vietnam’s current e-visa application is available to citizens of only 80 countries, and visa exemption is granted to visitors from 24 countries. This is considerably less compared to other countries in the region, such as Thailand (76), Malaysia (156), and Singapore (162).
Therefore, Chinh suggested that expanding the list of visa-exempt countries would present a significant opportunity to attract more visitors to Vietnam, particularly from the third quarter of this year. The more foreign visitors come, the faster the country’s tourism industry will experience a complete recovery, he added.
Currently, Vietnam’s unilateral visa exemption policy applies to 13 countries, including Russia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Belarus, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.
TAB is proposing to expand the application of this policy to 33 other countries, including the remaining 20 countries of the European Union, as well as countries like the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Switzerland, which have a substantial number of visitors to Vietnam, Chinh stated.
Assoc. Prof., Dr. Pham Hong Long, Head of the Faculty of Tourism at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, emphasized that a liberalized visa policy brings forth “dual benefits,” as foreign visitors’ perception of Vietnam as an attractive destination heavily depends on this policy.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), a favorable visa policy can result in an annual increase of foreign visitors by 5-25%.
To maximize the benefits of this policy, the tourism industry is advised to undertake coordinated measures, such as intensifying promotional activities, developing distinctive and appealing tourism products, effectively managing destinations, and cultivating high-quality human resources.
In the first half of 2023, Vietnam welcomed over 5.57 million foreign tourists, as reported by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.