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Vietnam tourism ministry calls for longer visa exemption

Vietnam’s tourism ministry Thursday urged the government to double the visa-free stay period for tourists from five European countries to 30 days to attract more visitors.

The visa waiver for visitors from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, made last July, would be more effective with a longer period of stay since western tourists usually vacation for three to four weeks, it said.

It also wanted the waiver policy to be effective for five years instead of being subject to annual renewal, saying tourism campaigns need long-term plans.

Official statistics show that arrivals from the five countries this month increased by 9-34 percent year-on-year.

For the past nine months, they were up nearly 14 percent compared to a mere 5 percent a year since 2010.

The extra tourists are estimated to have contributed nearly US$171 million to tourism revenues, it said.

Vietnam has received nearly 3.25 million foreign arrivals this year, up 18 percent.

Tourism insiders have been urging the government to be more generous in its visa policy given the intense competition from other countries.

Indonesia waives visas for tourists from 169 countries and territories and targets 20 million arrivals in 2019.

Malaysia does so for 155 nationals and Singapore, 150.

Vietnam, which received less than eight million foreign visitors last year, waives visa only for 22 countries.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism last year proposed that the country should add another 19 to the list soon.