The tourism ministers of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar will meet in Ho Chi Minh City Wednesday to discuss creating one visa that would enable tourists to travel freely between the five nations.
The meeting will take place on the sidelines of the 9th International Travel Expo scheduled to be held in Vietnam’s southern hub from Sept 12 to 14.
Nguyen Van Tuan, chief of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, told the press that the leaders of the five countries generally support the single-visa policy, and it is just a matter of time before the policy becomes reality.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has tasked the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism with researching how the one-visa policy would be implemented, Tuan said.
The tourism sector is also planning to ask the government to unilaterally issue visa exemptions to citizens of certain countries, he said.
Vietnam, along with Myanmar, has the most complicated tourist visa processes in Southeast Asia, according to experts and tourists.
Most Southeast Asian countries have efficient visa on arrival systems which experts say make it easy for tourists to plan their trips.
For Vietnam, tourists have to apply for their visas weeks in advance, send their passports to the Vietnamese embassies or go online for letters to confirm their visas will be issued on arrival and then ending up waiting for a long time after arriving in the country.
Tourists have also complained that when they go to Cambodia or Laos, they can simply turn up and pay US$25 on arrival while Vietnam charges almost double at $45 for a 30-day or 90-day single entry visa, the most expensive in the region.
The diverse Southeast Asian region of around 600 million people boasts numerous exotic destinations including the jungle-covered temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia to five-star beach resorts in Bali, appealing to travelers from all walks of life.
ASEAN countries recorded around 77 million foreign visitor arrivals in 2011. Malaysia led the field, followed by Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei.