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Vu The Binh, chairman of the Vietnam Travel Association, said on Tuesday that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism was collecting comments on whether to stop visa exemption to tourists from seven countries, including South Korea, Japan, Russia and four countries in northern Europe.
If such a move goes as planned, Vietnam’s tourism will be adversely affected, Binh told the Daily.
The visa exemption policy, according to Binh, needs to be maintained as it contributes to Vietnam’s high tourism growth, and so does the current visa fee.
One million tourists from Japan and South Korea have come to Vietnam this year, and the number of Russian tourists has also increased strongly, so the removal of visa exemption may lead tourists from these countries to rethink their plans to visit Vietnam.
Binh said the number of international tourists would certainly decline on the visa fee hike and the removal of the visa-free policy.
In the current economic conditions, many countries are offering more promotions and relaxing their visa regulations to attract tourists while Vietnam does the other way around. Vietnam cannot compete with neighboring countries with its high visa and service fees, especially when the number of contracts local travel firms have signed for next year has dropped much, according to Binh.
Tourists will consider visiting places where there are more special policies than places with a high visa fee.
In a recent meeting on tourism in Hanoi, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan suggested that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism ask the Prime Minister to delay the visa fee hike for another six months or one year.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Vietnam attracted nearly 6.04 million international tourists in January-November and the number in all of 2012 is forecast to reach to 6.7 million, up 11 pct from last year.