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Vietnam Tourism Officials Push for Universal Visa Waivers

As Vietnam suffers from nearly a year of decline in international tourists, local tourism officials have called on the government to grant visa waivers for all nationalities from July to December.

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Vu The Binh, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association (VITA), said that such a step is necessary to boost international tourist arrivals that have fallen for 11 consecutive months. 

A similar scheme was successfully adopted in late 2009 when the domestic tourism industry was slumping.

 “The visa fee waiver then benefited more than 100,000 international holidaymakers and the arrival numbers surged 36 percent in 2010,” said Binh.

According to VNAT, Russia and China, traditionally strong inbound tourist markets are the main reason for the poor performance. Russia has been hit by a financial crisis following the Ukrainian conflict and Chinese tourists have been going elsewhere due to frosty geopolitical relations between Hanoi and Beijing as they squabble over oil rigs and island building in the East Sea.

The country’s tourism industry was further hampered by rigid visa rules, poor service quality, and a strong US Dollar.

Things may get even tougher with the arrival of the low season. Some hotels expressed concerns about their operations in the coming months.

“It’s not an easy task to attract tourists between May and July,” Dang Huy Hai, deputy general director of New World Saigon, told The Saigon Times.

Currently, only tourists from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Russia and South Korea enjoy visa exemptions.

[Photo via Flickr user M]

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