Australian tourists wait for Vietnam to relax visa policy

Many Australian tourists are eager to return to Vietnam thanks to cheap airfares and they hope the government will waive the $25 visa fee and relax immigration requirements.

Rhonda Nichols from Far North Queensland said he loved Vietnam and had been to the country six times before.

Nichols, who usually stays for about two to six weeks, said the government should improve its e-visa system, and remove the $25 fee to apply for a visa on arrival.

“Thailand and Indonesia do not charge visa-on-arrival fees and that clearly creates a good impression for tourists,” Nichols added.

He said that Vietnam should consider extending the duration of stays for tourists because a 30-day e-visa is too short.

Vietnam currently offers 30-day e-visa for tourists from 80 countries and territories, including Australia.

Grant Wilson, an Australian tourist who has lived in Vietnam for six years, said Australia was in the grips of the worst cost of living crisis on record and were looking to travel to affordable countries in Southeast Asia.

He said affordable could be understood as the price of a hotel room of under $100 per night, meals costing $10 and round-trip airfare of under $1,000.

Though Wilson loves Vietnam most among Southeast Asian countries, he said many Australians preferred Thailand and Bali thanks to a friendly visa policy for foreign retirees.

Thailand and Indonesia have launched “golden visa programs” that allow foreigners to stay for up to 10 years to boost economic growth.

Vietnamese legislators will vote on new bill on June 24 that seeks to extend the validity of e-visas from 30 days to a maximum of three months and allow multiple entries, as well as triple the duration of visa-free stays for tourists from certain countries who now enjoy a 15-day waiver to 45 days.

In addition to visa policy, Australian tourists expected Vietnam to improve the quality of tourist services to avoid becoming “a place for drunken, noisy tourists like Bali or Thailand.”

“Let’s introduce Vietnam as a country with many beautiful sites, friendly people and the best food in the world,” Nichols said.

Vietnam is only about two hours by flight from Bali, he said. Therefore, it was regrettable to lose potential Australian tourists to Bali and Thailand.

Travel companies in Vietnam that specialize in the inbound market, also identify Australia as a top target market.

Pham Phuong Anh, deputy director of Vietnam Tourism Company, said many Australian tourists have shown a big interest in visiting Vietnam since the second quarter as direct routes between the two countries have been expanded.

Before the pandemic, there was only one Vietnamese airline that had direct route to Australia.

Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet Air on Sunday announced expansion plans to launch new direct services from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to major Australian cities this month.

Competition between airlines has made prices more reasonable.

The price of a round-trip air tickets from Australia to Vietnam was VND20-25 million (US$856-1,071) before the pandemic but they now cost from VND10-15 million.

Lux Travel DMC, which specializes in high-class cruises, also targets the Australian market.

In the near future, the Hanoi-based company will set up a representative office in Australia to promote its tourism products.

Before the pandemic, Australian travelers were the biggest spenders in Vietnam, followed by Russians and Americans, according to the Vietnam Tourism Annual Report published by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

Each Australian tourist spent VND36.6 million ($1,570) while traveling in Vietnam in 2018.

Almost 82,000 Australians visited Vietnam in the first quarter of 2023, up 14.4% compared to 2019, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

By Tu Nguyen (e.Vnexpress.net)