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Britons among the new list of nationals to enjoy visa free travel to the Vietnam

Vietnam has approved a visa exemption policy for five European countries including Britain. Officials are hoping that the relaxed rules will encourage more holidaymakers from key European markets book holidays in Vietnam. Tensions with China, the largest source market for Vietnam, and a drop in arrivals from Russia have led to a decline in the number of foreign arrivals to Vietnam.

Britons among the new list of nationals to enjoy visa free travel to the Vietnam

Vietnam has relaxed its visitor visa requirements for citizens of Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain making travel to the Southeast Asia destination hassle free for citizens of these countries.

Under the new rules, which took effect on the 1st July 2015, citizens of these five European countries will not be required to have a visitor's visa for trips up to a maximum of 15 days. Various stakeholders in Vietnam's tourism sector spoke out in favour of the decision.

Nguyen Van Tuan, Vietnam's director of tourism administration stated:

"The decision will delight the country's tourism sector and visitors from these countries". Hoang Le Quyen of PeaceTours in Ho Chi Minh City echoed Nguyen's positive sentiments stating, "this is very good news. It will definitely help bring foreign tourists to Vietnam."

Previously, visitors from nine countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, four Nordic countries, Russia, Belarus, Japan and South Korea benefitted from a reciprocal exemption. The expansion of the list of visa exempt countries comes as Vietnam looks to revive its flailing tourism industry.

Since mid 2014, Vietnam has been negatively affected by a decline in visitors from China following escalated tensions linked to a territorial dispute over the Paracel Islands. Additionally, arrivals from Russia have also plummeted since the last quarter of 2014 as a result of a devaluation of the Russian Ruble. According to recent statistics released by the General Statistics Office, the total number of foreign arrivals to Vietnam in H1 2015 dropped by 11.3 per cent when compared to the same period in 2014.

Vietnam is not the only country to extend its visa waiver programme to new markets in recent months. Indonesia utilised a similar strategy in June 2015 by extending visa exemptions to a list of countries including the US, Canada, China, Japan, Italy and Germany. Both Vietnam and Indonesia have recognised that while visa fees are source of income, the potential gains of increased arrivals are likely to be greater.

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