Vietnam will add more countries to its visa waiver program, offer a longer visa-free stay, and expand the list of countries eligible for e-visa application, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh told a teleconference on tourism development in 2023 titled ‘Boosting Tourism Recovery and Promoting Growth’ on Wednesday this week.
These moves are expected to boost Vietnam’s inbound tourism one year after the country fully reopened its doors to international tourists on March 15 last year.
Speaking at the event, Dang Minh Truong, chairman of Sun Group, said that Vietnam is in dire need of breakthrough solutions to prevent the tourist industry from lagging behind.
Relevant ministries and departments should weigh up amending and supplementing regulations of the Law on Foreigners’ Entry in, Exit from, Transit through, and Residence in Vietnam, and report them to the prime minister as soon as possible.
Besides, it is necessary to extend tourist visa validity for international tourists from 90 to 180 days and the length of stays from 30 to 45 days, while allowing multiple entries.
As for countries entitled to Vietnam’s unilateral visa waiver program, it is vital to extend the maximum length of stays from 15 to 30 or 45 days and allow multiple entries.
Nguyen Quoc Ky, chairman of Vietravel Holdings, proposed quickly adjusting certain regulations to offer a visa policy as relaxed as that of other countries to lure more international travelers. An easier and more flexible visa policy will be a key driver of Vietnam’s tourism recovery.
Ky also suggested offering a visa waiver over a period of three or six months.
Amid higher global inflation, people are slashing their spending, so price is a key factor for any race to woo tourists.
A one-night tour in Vietnam sells for VND1.42 million (US$60) on average, while a similar tour is priced at VND710,000 ($30) in Thailand and VND1.18 million ($50) in Malaysia, said Ky.
Johnathan Hanh Nguyen, chairman of Imex Pan Pacific Group, said that in terms of international tourist arrivals, Vietnam has surpassed Indonesia to earn the fourth place in Southeast Asia.
However, foreign visitors’ total spending in Vietnam is equivalent to 40 percent of that in Thailand and much lower than that in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. This is a major unsolved problem of Vietnamese tourism.
|A group of Argentine travelers visit Reunification Palace in downtown Ho Chi Minh City on March 14, 2023. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre
Vietnam should target golf tourists and see golfers as the most potential tourist source. However, taxes imposed on golf tourism remain high, said Nguyen Thi Nga, chairman of BRG Group.
“The tax rate in Vietnam, including personal income tax and excise tax, stands at 30 percent, while other countries are levying a tax rate of 5-7 percent on golf tourism,” said Nga. As such, she proposed lowering taxes on international golf tourists so that Vietnam can tap the golf tourism industry.
Spending much on tourism promotion
Vietnam should focus on tourism promotion, mobilize resources, and call on the participation of many departments and agencies to attract a sheer number of international visitors in 2023, according to many travel firms.
Vo Anh Tai, deputy general director of local tour operator Saigontourist, underlined the importance of tourism connection, investment, and promotion in boosting inbound tourism.
Issuing the Vietnam Tourism Marketing Strategy until 2030 in early March is a professional and effective way. The strategy is aimed at promoting and positioning Vietnam as a leading tourist attraction in Southeast Asia, affirming the brand and competitiveness of the Vietnamese tourism sector.
Johnathan Hanh Nguyen suggested Vietnam’s tourism sector should launch a tourism connectivity and promotion campaign like Thailand’s sustainable tourism program ‘SMILE.’ Furthermore, to implement a new campaign, the government should play a role in monitoring and linking airlines, tour operators, lodging facilities, restaurants, and tourism service providers.
“Air carriers will join hands with travel firms to cut airfares and tour prices, and take tourists to tax-free shopping centers. When international travelers flock to Vietnam, airlines, hotels, and restaurants will bounce back quickly,” stated Johnathan Hanh Nguyen.
Nguyen Chau A, general director of Oxalis Adventure, said that Vietnam’s tourism should also make some suitable changes as over the past few years, international tourists’ travel behavior has been different from before. Many tourists tend to go on self-planned tours during which they book air tickets and hotel rooms, apply for a visa, and buy other services, instead of purchasing a package from a travel company.
Therefore, the method of introducing tourism at business-to-business events, exhibitions, and roadshows has become less efficient. It is necessary to encourage local firms to proactively bring international visitors to Vietnam, instead of depending on foreign partners.
|Foreign tourists are seen visiting Bach Dang Wharf in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tu Trung / Tuoi Tre
“Vietnam’s tourism sector should restructure business models. The majority of travel firms are doing business based on the business-to-business model, meaning that they introduce tourism products and services, and then offer them to foreign partners so that the latter can sell them to tourists. As such, Vietnam should float plans to popularize tourism and use many channels and platforms to enhance access to international tourists and entice them to Vietnam,” A said.
Concluding the teleconference, Prime Minister Chinh stressed that apart from enhancing domestic tourism, the tourism authorities should focus on tapping tourist source markets to lure international visitors to Vietnam, mainly those who can afford huge spending and a long stay.
Furthermore, the country should promote its tourism potential in terms of cultural, convention, and golf tourism.
The prime minister also hinted at completing the policy on entry and exit procedures for international tourists, adding more countries to its visa waiver program, lengthening their stay, and expanding the list of countries eligible for e-visa application.
PM Chinh also assigned the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to continue implementing the ‘Restructuring the Tourism Industry to Develop It into an Economic Spearhead’ project, with a focus on tourist source markets.
Resources should be used effectively for tourism promotion and marketing, the prime minister said.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should direct representative agencies abroad to actively team up with the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to hold culture and tourism promotion activities. It is extremely useful when there is no dispatch on tourism promotion overseas,” stated the prime minister.