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Schengen-like visa for Southeast Asia will boost foreign arrivals to Vietnam: insiders

Updated: 19:21, 13/04/2024

The Schengen-style joint visa initiative for six Southeast Asian countries, proposed by Thailand, will be a great opportunity for Vietnam to attract international visitors and increase its competitiveness, insiders said.

In recent months Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has been discussing the initiative with his counterparts in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, Bloomberg reported.

Foreign tourists visit Mua Cave in Ninh Binh, northern Vietnam.

The joint visa would enable tourists to explore all six Southeast Asian countries on a single visa.

Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, CEO of Alma Resort Cam Ranh in Nha Trang, said that Vietnamese tourism and the hospitality industry would benefit greatly if the proposal was passed.

"This Schengen-type visa would help address concerns Vietnam is losing out on travelers because of relatively cumbersome visa requirements compared to Thailand and Malaysia," he said.

"Thailand continues to attract higher numbers of tourists than Vietnam, so this visa arrangement could help offset that trend by encouraging more tourists who may otherwise visit only Thailand to also visit Vietnam."

Vietnam currently waives visas for 25 countries compared to 162 by Malaysia and 64 by Thailand.

Herbert said Vietnam's big cities with direct flights between these neighboring countries would benefit the most because many people will fly, for example, from Bangkok to HCMC and from Kuala Lumpur to HCMC. 

Six Southeast Asian countries welcomed 70 million international visitors in 2023, of which Thailand and Malaysia accounted for more than 50%.

Pham Ha, CEO of luxury cruise operator Lux Group, said that if only 50% of international visitors to Thailand and Malaysia visit Vietnam, the tourism industry will see a "gold mine" that helps boost revenue growth.

Thailand’s selection of five neighboring countries for the joint visa scheme is "not by chance," Ha said.

The four countries that share land borders with Thailand are Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Vietnam is located next to Laos and Cambodia. Tourists can easily visit 6 countries by road or train, an alternative to expensive air travel.

This also helps make tourists' trips more economical, increasing the competitiveness of the six ASEAN countries with major markets such as China, India, South Korea and Japan, Ha added.

Hebert said it’s a very clever move on Thailand’s behalf.

"The Thai authorities know that if the many tourists who have visited Thailand previously come back for a beach break, this visa will encourage them to experience the culture of nearby Vietnam, Laos and/or Cambodia and make the trip overall more interesting," he said.

Among the six countries, Thailand and Malaysia have more flight routes than Vietnam, which however has more flight routes than its two neighbors Laos and Cambodia.

Joining the alliance is an opportunity to help Vietnam become a "hub" in the Indochina region, said Hanoi-based AZA Travel CEO Nguyen Tien Dat, adding tourists who prefer Cambodia or Laos will fly to Vietnam, then to the other two countries.

Countries participating in the joint visa scheme may have difficulty managing and synchronizing the database with the remaining five countries. However, from the perspective of a tourism insider, Ha believed that Vietnam would enjoy more benefits if joining the alliance.

Currently, Vietnam tourism is facing fierce competition in the region. If Vietnam joins the scheme with the scheme, its competitiveness will be stronger.

Dat also analyzed that if Vietnam refuses to join while the remaining five countries agree, the Vietnamese tourism industry will face a new strong competitor - the alliance of the five countries.

"Competing with Thailand is difficult, having to compete with five countries at the same time will be even more tiring."

According to Hebert, this visa scheme would be a game-changer not only for Vietnam but for the Southeast Asian region.

Following Thailand’s proposal, leaders of the five Southeast Asian countries have expressed a positive attitude towards the joint visa initiative, according to Bloomberg.

Source: VnExpress

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