Rejecting a proposal by the foreign affairs ministry, the government has forged ahead with the visa waiver for single-entry visits of up to 15 days for Danish, Finnish, Japanese, Norwegian, Russian, South Korean, and Swedish nationals.
In April 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted to scrap the visa waiver for those seven countries. It slammed the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism for failing to take advantage of the policy to promote tourism, saying that the policy costs state coffers $50 million annually.
The dispute was only settled when two deputy prime ministers stepped in, and asked the foreign affairs and tourism ministries to continue offering visa waivers for tourists from those countries.
The waiver will take effect January 1, 2015 and lasts for five years.
Under a resolution issued this month that outlined several measures aimed at developing the tourism industry, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also asked the ministries of public security, tourism, and foreign affairs to consider waiving tourist visa requirements for more nationalities and to continue streamlining visa procedures that have been decried as ineffective.
The resolution did not dwell on the specific nationalities. But last August, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Transport proposed that the central government waive tourist visa requirements for France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada in a bid to pull in more visitors from those markets.
It also asked agencies concerned to “expand the international tourism market and reduce dependence on several major segmentations” in the wake of a dip in tourism arrivals due to deadly anti-China riots triggered by Beijing’s deployment of a giant oil rig in Vietnamese waters last May.
Currently, citizens of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member countries do not need a visa to enter Vietnam.
Since March 10, foreigners have been able to visit Phu Quoc Island in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang for up to 30 days without a visa. The visa waiver also applies to foreigners who transit at any airport or seaport in Vietnam on their way to Phu Quoc.
Vietnam received a total of 7.87 million foreign tourist arrivals by the end of this year, up 4 percent from a year ago, according to most recent figures compiled by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. The country aims to draw up to 8.2 million international arrivals this year.