Vietnam, Thailand Ramp Up Efforts to Expand Visa Exemption Policies for Tourism Boost

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Foreign tourists visiting Vietnam (Photo: The Star)

As Southeast Asian nations race to boost tourism recovery, countries such as Vietnam and Thailand have intensified efforts to expand their visa exemption policies to attract a greater number of visitors.

In Vietnam, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has called upon the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) to evaluate extending the visa exemption policy to nationals of “more countries.” 

The Vietnamese PM has also instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promptly assess the effectiveness of unilateral visa exemptions granted to citizens of 13 countries thus far and urged collaboration with Parliament to propose additional countries for inclusion in Vietnam’s unilateral visa exemption roster.

Currently, Vietnam offers visa-free entry to citizens of 25 countries across the world, with 13 benefiting from unilateral exemptions, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Belarus.

This move is anticipated to bolster Vietnam’s attractiveness as a tourist destination and enhance its competitive edge in the global tourism arena.

In 2023, Vietnam welcomed 12.6 million foreign visitors, marking a nearly 3.5-fold increase from 2022. This year, the country aims to attract between 17 and 18 million international visitors, a target aligned with pre-pandemic levels.

On the other hand, Thailand, Vietnam’s primary tourism competitor in the region, signed a visa waiver agreement with China, allowing visa-free travel between the two countries starting on 1 March to enhance bilateral ties and boost tourism. The agreement is expected to benefit both nations’ tourism sectors, particularly Thailand’s.

Additionally, the Thai government has also approved a visa exemption scheme for holders of ordinary passports or travel document holders from India and Taiwan, allowing them to enter and stay in Thailand for up to 30 days, effective from 10 November 2023 until 10 May 2024, according to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Looking ahead, Thailand is also planning to establish a mutual visa exemption scheme with Australia to enhance travel and business opportunities between the two nations, VisaGuide.World reports.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced that the government intends to extend visa-free travel privileges to citizens of several additional countries, with the country aiming to draw about 34–35 million foreign visitors in 2024.

As for Laos, although there have been no recent updates regarding a visa exemption policy, the country currently maintains visa exemption agreements with 36 nations, including all ASEAN nations, encompassing various types of passport holders, including diplomatic, service, and ordinary passports.

Countries other than ASEAN nations where holders of ordinary passports can access Laos without visas include Japan, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, allowing stays of up to 15 days; Mongolia, South Korea, and Russia, permitting stays of up to 30 days.