Chinese tourists have stopped being able to enter Vietnam through special permits due to a new immigration law that came into effect on January 1.
A 2004 decision by the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security allowed Chinese tourists to use the entry and exit permits issued by the Chinese government to visit Vietnam on package tours booked by Chinese and Vietnamese travel agencies.
The decision enabled Chinese tourists to enter Vietnam by road, railway and waterway (e.g. international border gates and sea ports) with these entry and exit permits. After arriving at the border gates and ports, they were granted a laisser-passer, which allowed them to travel in Vietnam for 30 days.
However, the law on entry, exit, transit, and residence of foreigners (Immigration Law) that went into effect on January 1 superseded that regulation.
The Immigration Law stipulates 20 different types of visa. To legally enter Vietnam, foreigners must apply for a suitable type of visa.
Under the new law, each Chinese tourist will pay US$45 for a visa to travel in Vietnam.
China’s deployment of a giant US$-1 billion oil rig in Vietnamese waters on May 2 triggered peaceful anti-China protests that erupted into violence in central and southern Vietnam two weeks later. Extremists torched, looted and vandalized foreign-owned factories. Taiwanese businesses, mistaken for being Chinese, suffered the most.
The move sent the number of Chinese-speaking tourist arrivals to Vietnam plummeting.
At a year-end teleconference last December, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung yet again lambasted the deployment of the oil rig, saying it cost the country's economy dearly. One of the most glaring bearings was that international tourist arrivals to Vietnam fell by one million last year, Dung said.
Vietnam received a total of 7.87 million foreign tourist arrivals by the end of last year, up 4 percent from 2013, according to most recent figures compiled by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. The country aimed to draw up to 8.2 million international arrivals last year.
Without the oil rig placement, "Vietnam could have received up to 9 million foreign tourists arrivals," Dung said at the teleconference.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, around 1.95 million Chinese tourists visited Vietnam last year, a slight increase by 2.1 percent from 2013, when Chinese tourists arrivals rose by 33.5 percent from a year earlier.
In a resolution issued last December that asked several ministries to consider waiving tourist visa requirements for more nationalities, PM Dung also asked that agencies concerned "expand the international tourism market and reduce dependence on several major segmentations”.
Last December, the Ministry of Transport also rejected a request by a Chinese city seeking entry for a caravan of 1,000 tourist cars, saying the short notice proposal left Vietnam ill-prepared to ensure their safety.