Jun 25, 2013

Vietnam Gaining Visa-free Travel

Tourism expert continue to present the case for visa-free travel to the national government claiming it is essential to build the economy, revenue and jobs in tourism.

They are lobbying to stop a Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ proposal to close the visa-free scheme particularly for seven countries.
Vietnam has in place a pilot visa exemption programme for tourists from Japan, South Korea, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. It has been running for eight years for some of the countries, but has met resistance from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Another visa-free stay programme for ASEAN visitors has not been targeted for review.
The ministry bemoans the loss of visa fee collection claiming the losses it incurs make the scheme unviable.
A tourist visa to Vietnam currently costs US$45 and if the exemption programme continues the ministry loses US$50 million a year in revenue, although tourism experts point out the positive earnings from tourism far outweigh the loss.
They also argue that a visa-free policy saves costs for the ministry, which can reduce its consulate staff payroll at embassies in the seven countries.
Vietnam Tourism Association vice president, Vu The Binh, argues that the loss of visa fees is just a drop in the ocean compared to the huge amount of revenue the tourism sector brings in every year.
Last year, the country attracted approximately 1.5 million visitors from Japan, Korea and Russia. If each visitor spent an average of US$1,500 during their stay, the tourism sector would earn US$2.1 billion and contribute US$210 million in VAT to the State budget.
“While Vietnam may lose several millions from visa exemptions each year, it will gain billions in tourism revenue,” he said.
“We also earn US$210 million in VAT, not to mention the other benefits such as generating more jobs,” he said.
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