Vietnam stands to gain from Southeast Asia common visa

Vietnam stands to gain from Southeast Asia common visa

A potential common visa agreement for Southeast Asia could significantly impact Vietnam's economy, tourism industry, and diplomatic relationships with other ASEAN countries. RMIT Senior Lecturer Dr Nuno F. Ribeiro explains why.

The Southeast Asia common visa is an initiative proposed by Thailand that at present involves six ASEAN countries: Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. It aims to streamline visa regulations and create a single visa for these countries.

This initiative is part of the broader trend of cooperation and integration within ASEAN, as outlined in the ASEAN Future Forum that took place in Hanoi in April 2024.

In its essence, the proposed common visa would allow a foreign national to visit all six countries with a single visa, allowing for mobility within these countries for the duration of the visa.

One of the key advantages for Vietnam from the implementation of this common visa is the potential boost to tourism. The agreement is expected to increase the number of international inbound tourists, especially from high-income, desirable long-haul markets such as Europe and North America, who may choose to visit Vietnam as part of their Southeast Asia travel plans.

This would lead to an increase in tourist receipts, benefitting the economy and the country’s balance of payments. Additionally, the common visa could create more employment opportunities and attract more foreign direct investment, contributing to the dynamism of Vietnam's tourism sector and overall economy.

Two tourists kayaking in Halong Bay The proposed common visa would allow a foreign national to visit Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam with a single visa. (Photo: ninelutsk –

The proposal spearheaded by Thailand has received overwhelming support from various stakeholders, including governments, businesses, tour operators, and academics. The World Economic Forum has been expressing its support for an ASEAN visa since 2016, highlighting the potential for further integration and increased overall power of ASEAN within the tourism global market.

A study conducted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that visa facilitation could lead to a significant increase in international tourist arrivals to ASEAN, as well as tourism receipts and job creation. This study predicted increases of 3 to 5.1 per cent in international tourist arrivals, 2.8 to 4.7 per cent in tourism receipts, and 1.6 to 3.1 per cent in employment.

To adequately prepare for and capitalise on the opportunities presented by the common visa, Vietnam needs to take several steps. These include establishing bilateral and multilateral agreements with ASEAN countries and other nations. Vietnam has been particularly successful in its diplomatic efforts to boost tourism via bilaterial agreements, as evidenced in a recent Australia Vietnam Policy Institute (AVPI) report.

Vietnam and other participating countries should define legislative frameworks, address joint security and surveillance concerns, and ensure compatibility of visa policies. Participating countries must agree to common entry rules for third-country visitors and align their respective immigration policies affecting international visitors. They must also harmonise their technology and security infrastructures.

Should the adoption of a common visa become a reality, Vietnam should prepare for a potential large influx of international tourists. This means upgrading its infrastructure and transportation systems, with a focus on developing networks that connect different modes of transportation (intermodal) and the same mode of transportation (intramodal).

It also means revising immigration and cybersecurity procedures, and training and upskilling of human resources. This is in line with the recently approved plan on the tourism system for the period 2021-2030, with a vision to 2045 for Vietnam (Decision 509/QD-TTg signed by Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha on 13 June 2024).

While some issues need careful consideration before a common visa is implemented and the likelihood of this initiative materialising soon may be limited, there is a great deal of optimism among experts and policymakers about the initiative's potential.

An optimistic timeline for implementation could be two years, and a more realistic one is estimated at five years. Nonetheless, given the pace of progress and the importance of the tourism sector for Vietnam and Southeast Asia in general, things may move faster.

With strategic planning and collaboration with ASEAN members, Vietnam can position itself to reap the benefits of this proposed common visa initiative to boost its tourism industry and enhance its position as a top tourist destination in the region.

Story: Dr Nuno F. Ribeiro PhD CHE

Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management, RMIT University Vietnam

Chairman of Tourism and Hospitality Sector Committee, EuroCham Vietnam


Thumbnail image: Atstock Productions –

  • Tourism & Hospitality

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