Recent visa relaxation measures put Vietnam on a path for arrivals growth from Europe, but their attached conditions are translating to missed opportunities for the destination and “annoyance” among some DMCs.
After prolonging visa exemption for five key European markets including Germany last year, Vietnam launched an e-visa facility for citizens of those same countries and 35 others in February.
Tourists at the Cai Rang floating market near Can Tho in Vietnam
“The 15-day stay limit (of the exemption) is a problem as many Germans travelling to Vietnam for the first time want to do 14 days plus a few days at a beach, so they still need a visa,” said Frank Hasso Wiegand, spokesperson from Focus Asia’s Munich office.
And while the e-visa applies to stays of up to 30 days, it likewise comes with a single-entry clause, which Alexander Leven, director of product development at Asia DMC, said “limits the opportunity to bind guests for Vietnam beach extensions”.
With Vietnam-Cambodia-Vietnam itineraries still popular among German clients, Wiegand said: “The restrictions have made the whole process complicated and annoying. Agencies make mistakes resulting in tourists being (barred) from their second stay in Vietnam... some airlines cancel all ongoing flights including back to Germany. Gives us a lot of headache at least once a week.”
Consequently, he foresees more German roundtrippers deciding not to loop back to Vietnam and instead choosing to end their holidays in Cambodia or at a beach in Thailand.
Moreover, traditional European preference for long trips to South-east Asia are in greater demand. Leven observed a “big, thriving” German market for educational cultural tours led by doctors or professors, which tend to run longer due to their in-depth nature.
Erkan Tuncaakar, general manager of Go Vacation Vietnam, added that visa-free entry should be extended to Austria, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium as they have high potential for Asia as well.
Meanwhile, the e-visa has raised question marks about the fate of the visa exemption. “If the e-visa is meant to replace the exemption, this would be a step backwards,” Wiegand said.
“We welcome the e-visa, but what we’re looking for is an indefinite extension of the visa exemption," Leven said.