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Vietnam’s foreign tourist arrivals slump 11% in first half of 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 10:26 GMT+7
Vietnam’s foreign tourist arrivals slump 11% in first half of 2015
Foreign tourists are pictured on a boat traveling in Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province, located in northern Vietnam.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has criticized the tourist industry for failing to make use of its potential and advantages for growth as Vietnam posted yet another decline in foreign tourist arrivals in the first half of this year.

Only 3.8 million international tourists visited the Southeast Asian country in the first six months, an 11.3 percent drop from the first half of last year, according to the General Statistics Office.

In June, Vietnam’s tourist arrivals suffered the 13th consecutive month-on-month slump, with more than 529,400 visitors, down 1.9 percent compared to the same month last year.

The numbers of tourists entering Vietnam in the first half by air, road and sea all declined 9.1 percent, 19.7 percent and 26.5 percent, respectively.

Industry insiders are hoping that the situation will improve starting July 1, when Vietnam begins scrapping visas for visitors from five more European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain and England.

The free-visa policy is expected to lure back European tourists to Vietnam, whose packages have become costlier as the euro is weaker against the U.S. dollar.

Vietnam takes pride in its political stability and natural landscapes as potential and advantages to attract visitors, but the tourist industry has only posted "unaccepted results,” Prime Minister Dung complained as he chaired a tele-meeting with local administrations on Monday.

The premier said more efforts should be put on developing tourism, and asked relevant agencies to look to Myanmar.

“[Myanmar] will welcome five million international tourists this year and Vietnam expects to receive only seven million, so what do you comrades think?” he said from Hanoi.

“The result is unacceptable given our stable politics, beautiful nature and many other things.”

The Ministry of Planning and Investment joined the discussion by proposing that more measures be taken to have better results, besides the free-visa travel policy.

The visa exemption granted to the five Europe countries only allows a 15-day stay for each entry within one year from the effective day, according to a directive signed by the premier.

Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh suggested visitors from other countries should also be allowed to enjoy the visa waivers and that policy should be applicable to longer stays.

“We should scrap visas for most other countries, except those that are hit by wars or have unstable politics, to encourage tourists to come to Vietnam,” he said.

International visitors, especially investors, should also be allowed to stay in Vietnam for three months, rather than just 15 days, the minister added.

“Foreign investors pour billions of U.S. dollars into Vietnam and are frequent international flyers, and they thus always complain about the short allowed stay,” Minister Vinh said.

“There must be specific measures to solve this problem.”

Vietnam currently applies a one-sided free-visa policy to eight countries, including Japan, South Korea, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia and Belarus.

The nation also has a visa-free policy for nine other Southeast Asian countries, including Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.

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