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Vietnam Visa waiver extension proposed

Extending visa waivers for foreign tourists has been proposed as a solution to help lure more travelers, especially as tourism from China has fallen due to tensions in the East Sea.

The Tourism Working Group under the Vietnam Business Forum (VBF), reporting that the tensions in the East Sea affected the tourism sector in May, warned that the continued fall in the number of tourists would be seen in the next few months.

A report released by Grant Thornton at VBF (a meeting between the government and the business community on June 5 in Hanoi) that showed that 15,000 booked nights at hotels as of July had been canceled, causing a loss of $1.8 million.

The survey covered 18 big hotels in the northern, central and southern regions. The hotels in the south suffered the most, with 40 percent of the total rooms canceled and a loss of 39 percent of total revenue in the period from May to July 2014.

Some hotels reported that some rooms booked for September have also been canceled. A golf course in the central region has reported an estimated loss of $50,000 due to  fewer players.

Though saying that it is difficult to calculate the losses caused by tensions in the East Sea in the tourism sector, the working group has warned that Vietnam would bear negative impact in the next months as well.

While the number of Russian travelers to Vietnam remains unchanged, the numbers of tourists from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia have dropped significantly.

Vietnam travel agents have also reportedly suffered heavily. Some travel firms reported the number of travelers from the US and Australia had dropped by 20-30 percent.

Meanwhile, analysts said they saw a sharp rise of 27 percent in the number of foreign tourists to Vietnam in the first four months of the year before the riots occurred in Binh Duong and Dong Nai Provinces and the Vung Ang Industrial Zone.

The number of Chinese and Hong Kong travelers during that period soared by 47 percent to 804,000. While Chinese tourists like the beaches in the central region, Russians prefer Cam Ranh bay or Phu Quoc Island.

Vietnam Visa waiver extension proposed
The working group hopes that the visa waiver extension, if approved, would help attract more tourists.

Targeted markets with potential that can bring high revenue to Vietnam’s tourism sector include the members of the EU, the US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The visa waiver may be applied to the citizens of the said countries and territories who stay in Vietnam for up to 30 days.

Vietnamese agencies have also been urged to set up a system on granting visas at the border gates that could work more effectively. Travelers with passports eligible for visa waiver may be allowed to stay in Vietnam for at least 14 days without having to obtain any additional document besides the passport itself.

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