Tough visa process hurts Vietnam tourism
Travel companies have urged Ho Chi Minh City to simplify visa procedures and create new tourism products to attract more visitors, according to Do Quoc Thong, deputy general director of Ben Thanh Tourist Service Company.
He said that few changes had been made to the city’s tourism products in the last 20 years.
Thong has spoke at a recent meeting to review activities of the Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Association.
Many tourism projects are still on paper, including Saigon Safari Park in Cu Chi District, Bach Dang amusement park in District 1 and Can Gio eco-beach tourist area in Can Gio District, he said.
The new boat tour on the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal has yet to attract tourists.
The city has few activities at night to entertain tourists.
Travel companies often have to explore tourism products at other localities, Thong said.
The 15-day visa waiver programme for citizens of five EU countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) starting from July 1 is expected to boost tourism but it has yet brought the expected results, said Vo Anh Tai, general director of Saigontourist Travel Service Company.
The restriction of the visa waiver period to only 15 days has made it difficult for travel companies to sell longer tours.
Under the visa waiver programme, foreigners must wait for at least 30 days from the day of exiting Vietnam before they are permitted to re-enter the country.
When tourists take 30-day trans-tours from Vietnam to Cambodia and Laos and return to Vietnam, they have to apply for a new visa on arrival.
The policy will last for one year, but travel agents often devise promotion plans one year ahead.
Nguyen Huu Tho, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said that tourism enterprises should join hands to gradually develop river tourism, which can bring hundreds of dollars to the city’s budget.
The city’s budget is insufficient to make high investments in tourism, Tho said.
The city target 5.1 million foreign tourists and 21.8 million domestic tourists this year.
Last year, it welcomed 4.6 million foreign tourists and 19.3 million domestic tourists.
Ho Chi Minh City is home to popular tourist attractions such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the War Remnants Museum, the Independence Palace and the Cu Chi Tunnels.