Vietnamese tourists in Turkey / PHOTO COURTESY OF TBKTSG
Several countries and territories have tightened their visa policies for Vietnamese tourists due to the large number of tourists overstaying their visas to work illegally, heard a recent tourism conference.
Tran Doan The Duy, deputy director general of tourism company Vietravel, told the meeting that it is getting more difficulty to acquire visa for destinations like Europe, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, and Taiwan, Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon (Saigon Times) Online reported
It is impossible for working age Vietnamese to get visas to Israel, he said.
In fact, a few days ago the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) ordered travel companies organizing tours to Israel to "carefully" check their customers' background after several were reported to have stayed in that country illegally.
The scrutiny is especially necessary for tourists from provinces with a record of people overstaying their visas -- like the central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh and the northern province of Hai Duong -- the order said.
"Visa policies should have become easier, but they are moving in the opposite direction now because some Vietnamese tourists disappeared [during tours]," Duy said.
Nguyen Van Tuan, head of VNAT, said that the ministry has revoked the licenses of companies that were aware of their customers' attempts to stay illegally, but ignored or even assisted them.
He said the ministry has recently tightened regulations on licensing travel companies, demanding those that offer outbound tours for local tourists deposit VND500 million (US$23,700), double the current deposit rate.
Under Vietnamese laws, the deposited funds can be spent to solve problems if a company fails to complete its duties during its business activities.
Tuan said all businesses will have to have their licenses renewed.
As of September last year, Vietnam had 1,242 outbound travel companies, including nine state-owned ones, according to VNAT.
Meanwhile, speaking to the newspaper on the sidelines of the meeting between the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and local firms on Friday, some businesses said due to changes in visa policies, the number of Vietnamese tourists to destinations like Hong Kong has decreased.
The newspaper reported that currently there are no official statistics about the number of Vietnamese tourists visiting foreign countries every year, but Vietnam has recently been considered a growing market for many countries.
The Vietnam Tourism Association estimated that around 3.5 million Vietnamese people traveled abroad in 2012, spending some $3.5 billion.
Around 1.1 million tourists visit China, one million Cambodia, 500,000 Thailand, 300,000 Singapore, 200,000 Malaysia, and 110,000 South Korea every year, it said.
Loosening visa policies
At the meeting, Tuan also announced that tourism agencies are proposing measures to the government to promote Vietnamese tourism.
One of the proposed solutions is to loosen visa policies like continuing to waive visa for tourists from major markets, and extending stay validations for markets with visa waivers, he said.
Simplified procedures for granting visas -- such as an online application process -- were also recommended, according to the official.
Currently Vietnam exempts visas for tourists from countries like Japan, Russia, South Korea and some northern European countries.
More than 7.57 million foreign tourists visited Vietnam last year, up 10.6 percent year-on-year, VNAT reported.
The country earned VND200 trillion ($9.5 billion) from tourism, an increase of 25 percent from 2012.
Vietnam aims to attract 8.3 million international tourists this year.
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