Tourism Sector Lauds VN Visa Exemption

The new visa exemption be­tween the citizens of Cambodia and Vietnam went into effect Thursday and is expected to significantly boost tourism between the two countries, officials said.

The visa exemption means Cam­bodian and Vietnamese passport holders will no longer need to pay $20 for tourism visas or $25 for business visas in advance of short-term visits. Instead, travelers can bring passports directly to the border to get a stamp that grants a free, two-week entry.

The rule is the result of a bilateral treaty signed Nov 4 by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong, said Koy Kuong, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Cambodia already has similar agreements with three other Asean countries—Singapore, the Philip­pines and Malaysia—and is attempting to negotiate visa exemptions with six more countries, Koy Kuong added.

Ministry of Tourism numbers show that there were 125,000 Viet­namese visitors to Cambodia in 2007, or about 6 percent of all visitors who came to the country.

Mom Yoy, the deputy police chief at the Bavet International Checkpoint in Svay Rieng province on the border with Vietnam, said Thursday that visitor numbers stayed the same despite it being the first day of the new visa exemption.

On average, up to 300 Viet­nam­ese citizens pass into Cambo­dia and up to 200 Cambodians go to Vietnam each day, he said.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said Thursday that he expects group tours to increase.

“Benefits will come to people from both countries who very often passed over the border for [medical] treatment, to run business, or to visit. They can save more than $100 if they passed more than five times per year,” he said.

The exemption may have business benefits as well, said Chan Sophal, president of the Cambo­dian Economic Association.

“I think the flow of products between Cambodian and Vietnam will increase as the visa barrier has been taken out,” he said.

Some bus tour companies said they expect their business to grow.

“With the new policy, I hope that more people will visit…both countries,” said Leng Sopheap, an employee of the Phnom Penh-based RTR Tour Company, which buses about 30 visitors to Vietnam each week.

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