Vietnam extends visa exemption to eight countries till 2022

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Visitors from Russia, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belarus will continue to enjoy Vietnamese visa exemptions for the next three years.

Foreign tourists take a boat ride on Ngo Dong River in Tam Coc-Bich Dong

Foreign tourists take a boat ride on Ngo Dong River in Tam Coc-Bich Dong, a popular tourist destination in northern Ninh Binh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Meo Gia.

To afford the tourism industry growth impetus, the government agreed on visa waivers for above citizens until December 31, 2022, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) said Tuesday. Travelers will be allowed to remain in Vietnam for 15 days.

The visa exemption program for these eight countries commenced in 2015, set to expire on December 31 this year.

The number of Russian, Japanese and South Korean tourists accounted for about one third of all foreign visitors to Vietnam in 2018.

South Korea provides the second largest group of visitors to the country after China. In 2018, nearly 3.5 million South Koreans came to Vietnam, a 44 percent year-on-year increase, accounting for 22 percent of all international arrivals (15.5 million).

Japan came third with 800,000 tourists last year, rising by 3.6 percent from a year ago while Russia posted sixth with a record 606,000 visitors or 4 percent of total foreign arrivals.

European countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belarus are additional emerging tourism markets. Western Europeans are big spenders and shell out on average $1,316 per trip while overall foreign visitors spend $900, VNAT data shows.

The government’s three-year visa extension for eight tourism markets will assist travel agencies, airlines, and investors develop long-term plans. However, businesses are calling for an increase in visa-free duration from 15 days to 30 days due to the long-haul nature of travel between Europe and Vietnam.

Vietnam features among Asian countries with the strictest visa policy. The country currently offers visa waivers to visitors from only 24 countries and territories including ASEAN co-members.

Indonesia, one of the world’s most liberalized countries for visas, grants visa-free travel to 169 nationalities, while the figure for Singapore is 158, Malaysia 155 and Thailand 61.

The number of foreigners visiting Vietnam in the first 11 months of this year is estimated at 16.3 million, an all-time high and up 15.3 percent year-on-year. Tourism revenue in the period came to around VND649 trillion ($27.96 billion), up 16.3 percent.