The Vietnam Tourism Association is asking the government to offer visa fee waivers to all tourists between July and December this year in an attempt to avert a drastic decline in foreign arrivals.
Vu The Binh, vice chairman of the association, said at a conference in Hanoi on Monday that the fee exemption will be an "urgent solution" to deal with consecutive drops in tourist numbers over the last 11 months.
"It will be a breakthrough to help travel firms stimulate demand from tourists," Binh said, as cited by Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon Online.
He said tourists will be able to save US$45 of the visa fee, but it is also a gesture of goodwill.
Some industry insiders even said the government should learn from Singapore and start letting all foreign tourists enter the country freely without visa requirements.
Figures from the General Statistics Office showed that foreign arrivals in April increased 11.7 percent from March to 690,440, but down 7.4 percent year-on-year.
The combined number of the first four months was nearly 2.7 million, down 12.2 percent from the same period last year.
Binh conceded that Vietnam's tourism products are boring and not worth the prices, which are relatively higher than similar services in nearby countries.
He asked the government to also offer tax breaks to tourism firms and hotels in the second half of the year so that they can in turn offer discounts and launch promotional programs to bring tourists back.
He said similar programs in 2009 had helped the industry survive a crisis, with foreign arrivals rebounding and then surging 36 percent the following year.
Vietnam’s visa waiver policy is currently effective for tourists from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
Binh said the government should consider extending it for another four large tourism markets of Vietnam, namely the UK, France, Germany and Australia.
Under a regional agreement, Vietnam also offers a 30-day visa waiver for tourists from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, except for those from Brunei who receive a 14-day waiver.