Critics say western travellers in particular are not travelling to Vietnam and that this is because visa rules are too strict. Currently, only travellers from 25 countries are allowed to travel to Vietnam without a visa. Travellers from other countries must apply for a visa before leaving for Vietnam. The length of stay for visitors who do not require a visa varies depending on their nationality. For example, travellers with Chilean nationality are allowed to stay in Vietnam for 90 days without a visa, but travellers from the UK or Germany, for example, are only allowed to stay for 15 days. By comparison, neighbouring Malaysia allows visa-free travel for all countries in the European Union, among others. Per visit, they are allowed to stay in the country for 90 days without a visa.
According to Vietnamʼs tourism industry, visa rules should be relaxed soon to boost the number of visitors to the country in the short term. For instance, the number of nationalities allowed to travel to Vietnam without a visa should be significantly increased. Also, the maximum length of stay allowed for visa-free travellers should be longer. Instead of the 15 days currently applicable to many countries, the length of stay should become a minimum of 30 days.
The requirements for the electronic Vietnam visa have also been criticised. Travellers from Western countries who are not eligible for visa waivers or who wish to stay in Vietnam for more than 15 days can apply for this e-visa. The e-visa can be applied for online and is valid for a 30-day stay. Several parties in Vietnamʼs tourism sector argue that this permissible length of stay should be increased and the visa should also be able to be used multiple times. Currently, the e-visa can only be used for one trip, regardless of the length of stay in Vietnam. Thus, for future visits, a new visa for Vietnam must be applied for each time.
Before the global COVID-19 outbreak, Vietnam also had a visa that was valid for three months and could be used for multiple trips. However, this visa has not yet been reintroduced. The “visa on arrival” that in the past could still be obtained upon arrival at the airport is also no longer available.
Modest expectations for 2023
Despite the disappointing 2022 figures, Vietnam is cautiously optimistic for 2023. The country expects to welcome some 8 million foreign visitors in 2023, more than double the number of travellers who visited the country in 2022. However, this is still much less than the visitor numbers before the COVID-19 pandemic; in 2019, Vietnam welcomed 18 million international travellers.
In December 2022, almost 20 percent more visitors came to Vietnam compared to the previous month. The country hopes this trend will continue, and large-scale marketing initiatives are therefore in the pipeline to encourage foreign travellers to choose Vietnam. Despite pressure from various sectors, the government has yet to give any indication that it plans to ease visa requirements in the short term.