Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Vietnam will issue tourist visas ‘on arrival’

Vietnam will soon begin issuing tourist visas to foreign travelers when they arrive at airports and border crossings.

The head of the travel department of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Vu The Binh, told reporters that the move is intended to boost the nation’s attractiveness to foreign visitors. He predicted that the plan will be implemented “in the coming months,” once the Customs Department adapts its information technology system to accommodate the new system. VNAT and other concerned departments will develop the procedures.

At present, visas are issued on arrival only in exceptional cases, when foreign visitors have hired local travel companies to complete visa procedures before flying to Vietnam. Many Vietnamese tourism firms are asking that visitors be spared from this job and be issued a visa upon arrival, as in Thailand and Cambodia.

This month, the Government has agreed to charge no visa fees on foreigners who enter the country under the national tourism promotion ‘Impressive Vietnam” program’ until September 30 or until the end of this promotion.

Binh said that the national tourism department would decide when to end the program based on results. Tour operators have praised the exemption of visa fees, saying that the tourism authority needs to continue this policy for the long term in order to attract international visitors.

“This is a good rule but needs to run for a long time, six months to a year, to attract guests because foreign tourists need time to prepare for their trip to Vietnam,” said Nguyen Viet Hung, general director of Fiditourist.

Bui Viet Thuy Tien, director of Asian Trails Co. Ltd., said that the national tourism agency should advertise the new policies because many international tourists do not know that they it is possible to receive a visa at entry points or from which website they can download visa applications.

Tran Xuan Hung, director of Viking Travel and Media Company, said that the new policies ought to be continued, and that along with the promotion program it would help the country’s tourism to promote its image to the world.

“We hope that it’s a first step for the country’s tourism to help foreign tourists,” Hung said.

Many local hotels behind the times

Only 30% of three to five star hotels in the country are equipped with global booking and web-based booking technology and only 8% of them use online marketing solutions, according to a survey conducted by a hotel marketing organization.

The survey found that 30% of tourists booked hotels via websites last year and another 30% booked rooms at travel agencies after reading online information. As a result, around 70% of Vietnamese hotels have lost opportunities to serve international travelers, Nam said at a seminar on comprehensive solutions for Vietnam’s hotels and resorts in Hanoi last week.

If hotels are not equipped with comprehensive facilities and services, Vietnam cannot keep foreign visitors long in the country, Nam added.

Phan Duc Man, vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said that Vietnam’s hotels and resorts are insufficient in infrastructure development and competitiveness compared to other countries. Meanwhile, the number of foreign visitors has increased by 15% annually over the past five years.

Foreign experts suggested Vietnam push up comprehensive hotel management solutions to reach professional development and potential customers. Technologies, online marketing and multimedia services will help hotels build up brands, save workforces and improve management.

Vietnam has over 8,500 lodging facilities with around 180,000 rooms. However, only 260 of these facilities have been classified from three to five stars, according to the latest statistics of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.


VietNamNet - Vietnam will issue tourist visas ‘on arrival’
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