Following a considerable rise of tourist arrivals from Vietnam in the first half the year, South Korean officials have announced a further loosening of visa restrictions and a host of incentives meant to boost Vietnamese arrivals.
Vietnamese tourists may soon secure visas in under three days (they usually wait seven), thanks to new visa rules announced by the Korean Tourism Organization in Vietnam and the General Consulate of Republic of Korea in Ho Chi Minh City on July 11.
The adjusted rules include loosening requirements on applications for group visas and multiple-entry visas for returning Vietnamese tourists.
The rules offer groups of more than five people employed at 500 major Vietnamese companies (listed at www.vnr500.com.vn) can now travel to Korea through incentivized tours.
Group visa will also be available to businesses with annual turnover of more than US$5 million; and groups of high school students or high school staff who wish to visit Korea for tourism and study purposes.
These people will also wait just three days to have their application processed for only US$15/person (instead of $20).
These groups, however, will have to book their trips through one of fourteen Vietnamese travel companies that have been authorized by the Korean General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City; every member of the group will be required to enter and exit Korea on the same flights.
Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia are the only South East Asian countries eligible for these group visas, according to Consul Yoo Seoung O of the Korea General Consulate in HCMC during a press conference held last Friday.
Also under the new relaxed rules, Vietnamese who have visited Korea at least once are now eligible for one-year, multiple-entry tourist visas which allow them to remain in Korea for 30 days at a time.
Those who have visited South Korea twice are eligible for three-year multiple-entry visas and past holders of three-year, multiple-entry visa can now obtain a five-year visa.
Multiple-entry visas will also be granted to tour guides who have entered Korea more than once in the last two years and those who earn more than $8,000 a year, among others.
Mr. Kang Sungghil, Executive Director of Korea Tourism Organization in Vietnam, speaks at a news conference in Ho Chi Minh City on July 11, 2014. Photo: Thu Thuy
Data from the Korea Tourism Organization's Hanoi Office show that Korea welcomed 57,275 Vietnamese visitors in the first five months of 2014, a 29% increase compared with the same period last year.
Korea welcomed 3,012 Vietnamese travelers through incentivized tours organized by select travel companies between January and June -- up 132 percent year-on-year.
The number of Vietnamese visitors has increased considerably from 76,537 in 2010 to 92,810 in 2011, 106,360 in 2012, and 114,357 in 2013. The country expects to welcome more than 140,000 Vietnamese tourists by late this year, General Consul Oh Jae Hack said during the meeting.
In addition, the state-run Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) launched its “Cheering Vietnam” (Co Vu Vietnam) campaign last April to raise fund for the Vietnamese athletes who will compete at the 2014 Asian Games (17th Asiad) in Incheon, South Korea from September 19 to October 4.
Kang Sungghil, Executive Director of KTO in Vietnam, said VND50,000 will be collected from every Vietnamese tourist who joins the tour to Incheon for the country's athletic delegation.
The organizers expect to raise VND500 million for the Vietnamese athletes, said Le Thi Thu Trang, marketing director of KTO in Vietnam.