Vietnam keen to roll out red carpet to Indian tourists

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Keen to tap into tourism potential from India, Vietnam is looking at rolling out the red carpet to Indians and is working out a scheme for a possible "visa exemption" for them besides facilitating filmmakers for shoots in the picturesque country.

Though over seven million foreign tourists visited Vietnam last year, there were only just about 10,000 Indians among them, and most visits were business related. Incidentally, about 1.9 million Chinese visited last year.

"The biggest drawback has been connectivity and lack of promotion," said Hoang Thi Diep, Vice Chairman of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The Ministry is in touch with the Indian Embassy here to ease the visa process as well as to boost connectivity.

At present there are no direct flights from India to Vietnam and one has to change fights from Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand. It might take anywhere from 8-20 hours to reach Vietnam from Delhi or Mumbai.

Jet Airways and Vietnam Airlines had signed a MoU in October 2011 on a comprehensive cooperation which includes commencing direct flights.

However, a revised Services Agreement was signed in November 2013. It is hoped that the flights will begin from November this year.

"We are ready to roll out the red carpet for Indians," Ding Ngoc Duc, CEO of the Vietnam Chapter of Pacific Asia Travel Association, told PTI.

He said Vietnam sees a "big potential" in tourism inflow from India. Incidentally, a large number of Vietnamese visit India, especially Bodh Gaya in Bihar.

Duc said that Vietnam is working at easing visa process for Indians, including a possible "visa exemption".

Asked if tax breaks can be offered to Indian filmmakers, the tourism Ministry's Vice Chairman said, "We are talking with the Ministry of Finance to find out the best way to attract Indian filmmakers. We are also looking at hosting a Indian Film Awards show here".

India too is keen to boost cultural ties with the strategically-important country.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is visiting Vietnam, has informed the country's leadership that India intends to open a cultural centre in Hanoi. She also invited the Vietnamese to have a cultural centre in India.

Swaraj has also talked about the possibility of having Indian films and TV serials, on Vietnamese television and also commercially availability of Indian films.

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