Do Long Stay Visas Attract Affluent, High-Value Global Travelers?

As Vietnam positions itself as the leading tourist attraction in Southeast Asia, a more open visa policy is expected to help achieve this goal by making it easier for travelers from around the world to visit the country.


The Government of Vietnam has taken drastic measures to attract more visitors. In the recently-issued Directive 08/CT-TTg on the rapid, comprehensive, and sustainable development of tourism, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh called for consideration of piloting long-term (12-36 months) multiple-entry visas to attract high-end tourists and retired people with high spending power.

Under the Government’s guidelines, the Ministry of Public Security is speeding up administrative reform and applying technology for foreigners’ comfortable entry, stay, and travel in Vietnam. The ministry will be tasked with introducing online entry and exit procedures using facial recognition technologies (such as FaceID) and e-passports for the convenience of visitors. It should also consider piloting visa issuance at border checkpoints based on on-site approval for international tourists.

In addition, the scope of unilateral visa waivers will be extended, while a pilot of short-stay visa waivers (6-12 months) will be introduced for tourists from a number of large, high-spending source markets. A pilot project on multiple-entry visas for long-stay visitors  (12-36 months) is expected to attract high-value tourists and high-spending retirees from Europe, Northeast Asia, North America, India, and some Middle Eastern countries.

Meanwhile, organizations and individuals involved in the provision of tourism services will be required to publish prices and comply with tax obligations.

All irregularities would result in the suspension of operations and revocation of licenses. Organizations and individuals who aid and abet violations and profiteer from tourist harassment, price gouging, or false tourism advertising will face severe penalties.

At the same time, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant ministries and sectors, has been given the lead role in designing a scheme for the establishment of overseas tourism promotion offices. Another task is to promote the role of Vietnamese cultural centers in foreign countries in popularizing the image of Vietnamese landscapes, culture, people, and tourism.

The Ministry should also be responsible for developing a plan to boost travel by sea and by road, as well as for developing appropriate policies for the promotion of railway tourism.

Vietnam currently exempts citizens of 25 countries from the visa requirement, 13 of which have been offered unilateral exemptions: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the UK, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Belarus.

From 2023, Vietnam started issuing electronic visas to all countries and territories, extending validity from 30 to 90 days with multiple entries. For nationals of countries that are beneficiaries of Vietnam’s unilateral visa waiver, the validity period has been extended from 15 to 45 days.  

The Hanoi Times spoke to leading tourism and hospitality experts about the government’s efforts to boost tourism and attract more qualified international visitors to Vietnam.

“From my point of view, the visa waiver will help stimulate the growth of international tourism in Vietnam. I wish we had done it earlier because when the visa door opens, it will not immediately attract tourists. In this context, Thailand now offers free visas to 76 countries, Malaysia 156, Singapore 162, and the Philippines 157; Vietnam only 25. At present, the “narrow door” of Vietnam’s visa policy affects foreign tourists who want to come to Vietnam and choose only short-term trips.”

Proposing long-term visa options and piloting multiple-entry visas for periods ranging from 12 to 36 months is crucial to attract high-end tourist segments with significant spending potential from key markets such as Europe, Northeast Asia, North America, India, and select Middle Eastern countries. The implementation of the 45-day visa waiver policy for European markets has led to a notable increase in demand.

These are also the markets in which Meliá Hotel International has built its reputation. Visitors who stay longer often return after exploring Hanoi and other regions. While the higher price point may not consistently attract longer stays, a significant portion of our target clientele, including business and leisure travelers, opts for longer stays. Vietnam is a very reasonable place to retire, especially for those who love adventure, beautiful beaches, scenery, cuisine, history, and unique indigenous culture; therefore, an open and reasonable visa policy will greatly benefit tourism. 

Moreover, the most important thing in attracting tourists is the competitiveness and attractiveness of the destination, as no tourist decides to travel just because there is an open visa policy to a country.

Compared to other countries in the region that have done this and extended visa-free to many countries, Vietnam still lacks attractive tourism PR campaigns, attractive products, and services to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more. In 2023, we undertook a complete renovation of two restaurants, Mosaico and Cham, the Garbo Bar, our wellness facilities, and all our ballrooms and function rooms, introducing new service packages combining accommodation and sightseeing, which made us proud and confident with our products to welcome all guests.

Let’s consider some key markets with high-paying rates, like Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, UAE, and India (which already have direct flights). If we could prioritize those countries that already have direct flights, it would help boost tourists’ access faster. At Meliá Hanoi, 50% of our top nationalities are visa-free for up to 45 days. In 2023, we witnessed a substantial uptick in stays from Spain, Japan, the UK, and Germany. We hope Australia, the UAE, the US, and a potential market such as India will soon join the list.

The visa facilitation policy was really what the tourism industry had been