HANOI (CNA) -- The number of travelers allowed to visit Taiwan will likely be reduced following the country's suspension of visas for groups of Vietnamese tourists, Ho Chi Minh City-based tour operators said over the weekend.
Bui Luu Thu Mai, who manages Blue Sky Travel, said Saturday that not only will the number of travelers wishing to visit Taiwan be affected, travel companies that sell tours to the country will be affected.
Prior to the visa program, Vietnamese have been put off from visiting the country because of problems obtaining a Taiwan visa, she said.
Another travel agency representative, meanwhile, said the program helped Vietnamese traveling to Taiwan because it simplified the visa application process.
The representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that with the suspension of the program, visitors must now apply for a Taiwan visa the traditional way, through its representative office in Vietnam.
The entire process will cost US$43.15 more than usual, she said, adding that visa applicants must also provide a financial statement.
Vietnamese who may have wanted to visit Taiwan are likely to cancel the trip and choose another destination because of the hassle, according to the representative.
Vietnam was initially one of the Southeast Asian countries whose nationals can apply for an electronic visa to visit Taiwan as part of a tour group under the "Kuan Hung Pilot Project" from November 2015 until the end of 2019.
When the project was first launched, it covered citizens from Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, India and Brunei. It now covers citizens from Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, after Thailand, Brunei and the Philippines exited the program because their citizens were granted visa-free entry to Taiwan.
On Thursday, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that it has suspended e-visa applications for the Kuan Hung program, but noted that individuals wanting to visit Taiwan can still apply through its representative office in Vietnam.
The announcement was made after 152 of 153 Vietnamese who entered Taiwan as part of four tour groups on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 left their tour groups and were unaccounted for as of Dec. 25.
An investigation then found that contact had been established with one member of the 152 who was previously reported missing and that three others had left the island.
As of 5p.m., Dec. 31, 23 of the missing tourists had been found, leaving 125 remaining unaccounted for, according to National Immigration Agency (NIA) data.