Vietnam anticipates record tourist arrivals this year
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism on Thursday announced 2016 would be a record year.
The agency predicted it would log 10 million foreign tourists for the year this Sunday compared to the 7.9 million who visited in 2015.
The industry made up 6.6 percent of Vietnam’s gross domestic product and offered one of the few bright spots in an economy that's highly likely to miss its annual growth target.
Chinese tourists arrivals soared 53.9 percent over last year's figures to 2.48 million, accounting for more than a quarter of the country's total international tourists.
Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the national tourism administration, attributed the impressive growth to Vietnam’s efforts to relax its visa policy.
Vietnam has already offered visa exemption to tourists from South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asian countries, as well as extended visa-free programs through June of next year for travelers from Western Europe, including those from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Hoping to give the tourism industry a bigger push, the Vietnamese government has approved an online visa system for travelers on short holidays or casual business visits.
The new visa rule, which is expected to come into effect this coming February, will not apply to all visitors, but limited to those from Vietnam’s top tourist source markets.
Tourism authorities are eyeing an additional 15-percent increase in international tourists next year—or 11.5 million.
Tourism is expected to become a key driving force in Vietnam’s economic growth by 2020.