Time at Vietnam (UTC+07:00) 04:42:16 PM, Sunday, 26 May 2024
Southeast Asian countries reap rewards thanks to the 'race' to facilitate visas

Relaxed and visa-free policies of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have contributed to helping the three countries receive a "bumper" of tourists. When Southeast Asian countries open up tourism after the pandemic, the race to attract international visitors to the region begins. The race becomes more exciting in 2024 when most Southeast Asian countries aim to welcome the number of visitors equal to or higher than before the epidemic, in 2019.

Thailand, a tourism powerhouse in the region, in 2024 has the ambition to welcome 35 million international visitors, nearly 90% of the 40 million in 2019. Singapore is expected to welcome 15-16 million international visitors, recovering 84 million. % compared to pre-epidemic levels. Malaysia aims to welcome 27 million arrivals, higher than 26.1 million arrivals in 2019.
 

Strengthening flight routes, opening new tours, creating unique tourism products and especially loosening visas are solutions sought by many Southeast Asian countries to attract tourists. Thailand is the country that has expressed the most ambition in recovering and developing tourism after the epidemic by continuously introducing many liberal policies. On February 7, Prommin Lertsuridej, Secretary General of the Prime Minister of Thailand, said that the government is planning to cooperate with four neighboring countries: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia to discuss visa exemption issues. . Thailand wants to establish an agreement that allows international visitors to only need to apply for an entry visa from one country to be able to travel freely between 5 countries. If countries agree, Thailand will bring this result to negotiations with the European Union (EU) aiming at visa exemption between the Schengen group (27 countries, mostly in the EU) and the group of 5 ASEAN countries. above.

Previously, Thailand also introduced many attractive visa policies from the end of 2023, such as Chinese and Kazakh tourists can enter without a visa, from September 25 to February 29, 2024. Thailand expects to attract 5 million more visitors from these two countries during the year-end peak tourist season. Not stopping there, on January 2, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced that Thailand and China will permanently waive bilateral visas, effective from March 1. Thailand also reduced visa issuance time from 14 to 7 working days, simplifying paperwork procedures.
 

Malaysia and Singapore also implemented visa-free policies for their largest international tourist markets. In December 2023, Malaysia waived visas for Chinese and Indian visitors after exempting visitors from the wealthy Middle East market and Jordan and Türkiye. Singapore applies bilateral visa exemption with China from February. Visa exemption or relaxation policies have helped three Southeast Asian countries, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, achieve significant achievements in attracting tourism.

Malaysia had a successful 2023 when the country became the destination welcoming the most international visitors in Southeast Asia, with 29 million visitors (higher than the target of 27 million in 2024), according to Focus Malaysia . Director of the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Department in Vietnam Nor Hayati Zainuddin said he was "proud" that the tourism industry is leading the race in Southeast Asia. "This is a milestone for the continuous efforts of the government and the entire domestic tourism industry," said Ms. Nor.

The representative of Malaysia said that one of the reasons helping the tourism industry surpass the 26 million mark in 2019 is "improving customs procedures and easing visa policies". The Malaysian Immigration Department allows foreign visitors to register digital customs declarations within 3 days before arriving in Malaysia, from December 1, to speed up immigration procedures and enhance attract tourism and investment. In addition, the policy of visa exemption for entry under 30 days for Indian and Chinese tourists is also implemented to attract tourists from these two billion-people markets.

Secretary General Prommin Lertsuridej said the success of Thailand's visa exemption policy contributed to increasing the number of international visitors and gave evidence that in 2023, the country expected to welcome 25 million visitors but actually welcomed 28 million. . In January, this country welcomed nearly 4 million international visitors, nearly double the 2.14 million in January 2023.