Guam Chamber Promoting Vietnam Visa Waiver For Tourists

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Idea part of effort to diversify tourism marketing in Asia

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Feb 26, 2013) – In line with Guam's efforts to diversify the tourism market and enhance trade relations with Asian neighbors, the Guam Chamber of Commerce is now seeking to tap into the Vietnamese traveler market.

David Leddy, president of the chamber, said the board of directors recently approved a motion to advocate for a visa waiver program for Vietnam.

Leddy said the board's action is "in keeping with the Guam Chamber's Regional Business Alliance efforts to promote greater collaboration, investment and economic opportunities between Guam and Asia-Pacific."

Board chairman Peter Sgro said he recently met with William Marshak, commercial attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, and discussed the possibility of a visa waiver for travelers from Vietnam.

"Mr. Marshak was very receptive to a Vietnam visa waiver program," Sgro said in a report to the Chamber from Hanoi.

"He identified several points he felt reduced risks. We both agreed that if a Russia visa waiver program was approved for Russians, then an application for a Vietnam visa waiver program also had merit," he said.

The country's flag air carrier, Vietnam Air, is expected to meet Federal Aviation Administration guidelines soon.

Sgro said if there is sufficient demand for direct flights to Guam, the federal government may likely support a Guam-only visa waiver for Vietnamese travelers.

Economists have noted the signs of Vietnam's economic recovery, with gross domestic product growing 5.42 percent last year from 5.25 percent in 2012.

But traveling abroad can be a challenge for Vietnamese. During a tourism conference in Hanoi last month, industry stakeholders noted that several countries and territories have tightened their visa policies for Vietnamese tourists due to the large number of tourists overstaying their visas to work illegally.

Sgro cited the following points that he said can possibly support a proposal for Vietnam visa waiver program:

Sgro also noted considerable investment into Vietnam, which he said also creates economic opportunities for Guam.

"Some private companies investing (in Vietnam) with large infrastructure funds in place maintain significant cash reserves to invest in other countries, including the United States," he said in an email to Chamber members.

Sgro said his meeting with Marshak mainly involved discussions relative to private financing for very large infrastructure projects.

"One highway project alone for its construction, maintenance and operations is estimated at $4 billion and will be completely privately financed," Sgro said.

"The total infrastructure projects prepared for development at both the central and provincial government level is in excess of $40 billion. We discussed the final phase of the Vietnam government establishing Build-Own-Operate and Build-Own-Transfer laws. It is expected that the final drafts of these laws will be done at the end of this month."

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