|Tourists ask for tour programs at a travel company in HCMC. The longer visa processing time has affected many tour operators who received a high number of tour bookings for the RoK this summer – Photo: Dao Loan
Many local tour operators told the Saigon Times that companies accredited by the Republic of Korea (RoK) to filter out visa applications typically need up to five days to receive visas for their customers, but it now takes up to eight days.
Many travel firms in Hanoi have even had to wait more than two weeks to complete visa procedures, while tourists applying for the visa themselves have had to wait up to three weeks.
The surging number of five-year visa applications by individual tourists has extended the time needed to process the applications, said Tu Quy Thanh, director of Lien Bang Travelink.
As a result, the longer visa processing time has affected many tour operators who received a high number of tour bookings for the RoK this summer.
Thanh added that his company had seen twice as many tour bookings for the RoK this summer compared with last year.
The firm operates four weekly tours to the country, serving some 25-30 tourists on each tour.
Five-day tours to the RoK are now offered at some VND12 million, but tourists have to wait a while to start their trip due to the visa application backlog, said Tran Thi Bao Thu, marketing and communications director at Fiditour.
Accordingly, some accredited travel firms have jointly arranged a schedule for applying for visas for their customers, aiming to partially address the application overload.
Data from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) in Vietnam shows that over 170,000 Vietnamese tourists visited the RoK during the first four months of the year, up over 30% year-on-year.
KTO Vietnam confirmed that it had received plenty of feedback from travel agencies in HCM City and Hanoi regarding the longer visa processing time.
The RoK started on December 3 last year to issue five-year visas to Vietnamese passport holders who reside in or have temporary residences in HCMC, Hanoi and Danang.
These visa holders do not have to prove their sources of incomes. However, other conditions may be taken into account to grant the visa.
Since the new visa policy took effect, pending applications have backed up. the RoK welcomed some 450,000 Vietnamese tourists last year, up 40% against the 2017 figure. In 2019, the figure is expected to double.