Laos will not lose any visa fees to the single-visa scheme the country is considering joining in partnership with Thailand and Cambodia, which launched late last year.

An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who asked not to be named, said that rather than diminishing the country’s revenue it would boost visitor arrivals.

He made the comment on Friday three weeks after his return from Cambodia where the ministry delegation learned about the concept of the single-visa scheme and how it operates.

“We misunderstood the scheme. We understood that when it was introduced visa fees would be collected only by the country issuing the visa,” he said, referring to what they had learnt from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia.

“But this isn’t the case. Any of the participating countries can charge fees when foreign visitors enter their territory.”

The official went on to explain that the idea behind the single visa in regards to Thailand and Cambodia is to facilitate the issuing of visas, and has nothing to do with the fees charged.

“When Laos joins the scheme, a tourist can be issued a Lao visa by a Thai embassy or consulate elsewhere.

He or she can use that visa to enter Laos, but they will be charged for the visa by Laos when entering the country, while the Thai embassy will charge for their service,” he explained. “I also misunderstood the situation.”

The issuing of visas under Thailand and Cambodia’s single-visa scheme involves a check with the partner country and possibly cross-checking for security purposes.

Laos is considering joining the scheme after being advised that it will boost tourist arrivals and drive tourism growth in the Mekong region. Government officials are collecting information and studying the potential of the scheme in detail before making recommendations to the government.

If the government gives the go-ahead, the official said Laos would need to take on more staff to work at Lao embassies and consulates overseas to undertake the work involved.

It will also be necessary to improve communication systems to facilitate rapid communication, especially to allow checks with partner countries before issuing the visas.

There have been repeated calls from businesses across the region encouraging their governments to introduce the single visa policy.

The latest call was made recently at the 5th Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) Summit that took place in Vientiane when ACMECS leaders and businesses executives from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam met on the sidelines of the summit.

Business leaders encouraged other ACMECS countries to introduce the single visa scheme by 2015, as Thailand and Cambodia had done.

Source: Vientiane Times
By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
May 13, 2013