Vietnam’s visa-free travel up in the air

HANOI, 8 June 2017: Vietnam’s visa-free travel concession for five European nationalities will extended for another year after the initial trial period ends 30 June .

Citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom have been enjoying visa-free travel to Vietnam which has resulted in a boost to tourist arrivals.

An industry group called for a five-year extension to the visa waiver scheme for certain European tourists, just a week before the trial period expired.

Vietnam’s Tourism Advisory Board recommended  that the visa-free offer should be extended for five years.

They also wanted the travel period extended from 15 days to a month.

However, there are also recommendations to extend the e-Visa scheme, which immigration officials prefer as it gives them the opportunity to run checks on visitors before they arrive.

In the long-run more countries will adopt e-Visas to earn revenue for immigration departments and ensure that some controls remain on who is allowed to enter a country.

Terrorist attacks in Europe instigated by citizens rather than foreigners places pressure to introduce stricter measures. The UK is seen as an example where three major terrorist attacks have taken place in three months all instigated by UK citizens born and bred in the country.

The advisory board is was set up by industry stakeholders in 2012, including mainly  tour operators and hotels. They achieved some success in lobbying for easier visas and other measures to encourage tourism.

Local newspapers said the board had lobbied Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, to offer multiple visa-free entries to allow tourists to explore other neighbouring countries and then return to Vietnam.

Ideally the board would like the visa-free facility to extend to Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Other requests have been made to offer visa-free entry for visitors from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and former Soviet states Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

However, as terrorism expands globally and governments attempt to improve security against the threat of Islamist attacks, visa-free travel could be taken off the menu with a return to stricter controls.

There is a view that recommending a user-friendly online e-Visa process is the direction to take to allow for security officers to run checks against blacklists.

Vietnam says it could welcome 20 million foreign visitors by 2020 and plans to develop tourism to be a economic driver.

Vietnam has been offering single-entry visa exemptions to citizens from Western European countries since mid-2015. Arrivals from the markets increased between 13% to 32% in the first four months, compared to the same period last year.