Dr. Luong Hoai Nam, a member of the Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board, told a seminar held by Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday that the country needs to relax its visa policy to bring in higher tourism revenues.
The expert said it is necessary to consider the visa process as a competitive tool to attract international tourists.
Particularly, waiving visas for wealthy visitors can increase international tourists’ daily spending in the country.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of international tourists visiting Vietnam has sharply decreased.
The occupancy rate of many resorts in the country plummeted from 80 percent in 2019 to only 30-40 percent, according to the most recent data.
In addition, the nation lacks tourism products, especially in the health and shopping-entertainment service segments, according to Johnathan Hanh Nguyen, chairman of Imex Pan Pacific Group (IPPG).
These factors make Vietnam’s tourist daily spending lower than other countries.
The average spending of an international visitor to Vietnam is US$7.5 per night, only one-fourth of that in Thailand and 7.5 percent compared to Singapore.
Thailand, a nation with a geographical proximity and cultural similarities to Vietnam, reported a growth rate of 28.2 percent year-on-year in international spending, with health tourism contributing $4.7 billion in 2020.
At Friday’s event, Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, said that there are currently more domestic tourists than international visitors in the city.
The lack of international tourists have forced many tourism service facilities in Ho Chi Minh City to operate below their capacity and some even closed their business.
In order to attract more international tourists, which will consequently result in higher tourism revenue, Nam suggested increasing the number of countries enjoying Vietnam’s unilateral visa-free policy to 68, the same as Thailand.
Visa policy makers should also extend the length of stay from 15 days to 30-45 days for foreigners, according to Nam.
All visitors from EU member states should also be exempt from visa procedures.
Nam’s proposals also include extending the duration of the unilateral visa waiver, which varies for different foreign arrivals, to five years.
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