It is a disappointing and a non-disappointing decision at the same time. The Vietnamese government decided last week to renew again its visa waiver policy towards five countries in Western Europe- France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. The extension of the free visa-on-arrival policy will get into force from July 1st and will be valid until June 30, 2018.
This is the second time that Vietnam processed to a one-year extension to the visa-free policy applicable to German, French, British, Italian, and Spanish visitors since its introduction in 2015. The announcement last week came just on time as as travel companies started to worry whether the government would extend again the facility to these five important source markets to Vietnam.
Why then is this policy disappointing in some ways. The travel industry has been lobbying over the past two years the Vietnamese government on two main points: the length of stay included for tourists benefiting of the visa-waiver and the number of countries being concerned by the exemption.
The maximum allowable stay for the five countries under the visa waiver is 15 days per entry, applicable to all kinds of passport and travel purposes. Tour operators think that this is to short and force many visitors to shorten itineraries and circuits. They propose to extend the visa waiver to 30 days instead. So far, the government turned a deaf ear to their wishes.
The tourism and travel trade was also hoping that more countries would benefit now from this facility as the visa waiver already demonstrated its capacity to boost tourism. Last year, the five beneficiary countries represented a total of 780,885 visitors compared to 658,736 a year before and 635,489 in 2014. This represents in two years a growth of 23%.
In the first five months of 2017, Vietnam welcomed nearly 400,000 visitors from the five. This would help the five countries to pass the 800,000-traveller’s mark this year.
Countries which could benefit from a similar visa-“lenient” policy are Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Australia and Canada. Scandinavian countries have been exempted of a visa for a few years now. The only new country added to the list is the Czech Republic.
But according to officials from the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT), the government is still considering to add more countries. Considerations have been going on for two years already…