Increasing international arrivals following the introduction of a visa-free policy in July could enable Vietnam to post similar, or even bigger, tourist numbers in 2015 than last year, the chief tourism official has said.
The Southeast Asian country had seen international tourist arrivals drop in a stretch of 13 months from May 2014, but the visa waivers for five European countries in July came just in time.
Vietnam’s tourist numbers have risen 12.9 percent in November from a month earlier to 732,740, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
It also represents a solid increase of 20.4 percent compared to November 2014.
The healthy growth was largely contributed by the increases of five to 10 percent in the number of tourists from the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and France, who have been entitled to a 15-day visa exemption when visiting Vietnam since July 1.
However, international arrival numbers in the 11-month period was still two percent lower than the same period last year, standing at 7.07 million, the VNAT said on its website.
But VNAT chief Nguyen Van Tuan is confident that the country can at least equalize the tourist number of 2014.
“Given the current growth rate, it is most likely that the international arrivals this year will be equal to or even bigger than the 7.87 million recorded last year,” he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
The chief tourism official is upbeat apparently because the visa-free policy has proven to pay off, with all of the five European markets reporting rising arrival numbers in the July-November period.
The Southeast Asian country currently applies a one-sided visa-free policy to eight countries, including Japan, South Korea, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Belarus.
Vietnam also has a visa-free policy for nine other Southeast Asian nations, including Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Foreign tourists who visit Phu Quoc Island, off the southern province of Kien Giang, also enjoy a 30-day stay without a visa.
The Southeast Asian country is considering scrapping visas for more tourists, with the government earlier this month asking relevant agencies to study the feasibility of making a policy to waive visas for international vacationers who visit Vietnam via tour packages offered by certain local travel firms.
Such a visa-free policy would only be applicable to vacationers from “certain markets” who buy tours from “designated Vietnamese international travel agents,” according to the VNAT.
“The government has just given the order and we will immediately start studying its possibility,” Tuan, the VNAT chief, was quoted by The Saigon Times Online as saying in a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City on November 6.