A ceremony was held at the Ha Long International Cruise Port in northern Quang Ninh province on December 19 to welcome and present a medal to the 15 millionth foreign visitor to Vietnam this year.

The lucky visitor was Mr. James Kopenec from the US. Ms. Annita De Vriesere from Belgium and Mr. Masahiko Nagishi from Japan were 14,999,999th and 15,000,001st and were also presented medals. All are visiting Ha Long Bay on a five-star cruise that departed from Singapore and will end in Hong Kong.

Mr. Kopenec was surprised and excited to be the 15 millionth visitor and said he admired the beauty of Vietnam.

The event marked a major success for the tourism sector in recent years and affirmed that Vietnam is an attractive, friendly and safe destination, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien told the ceremony. It was also the foundation for developing tourism into a spearhead economic sector.

With the successful organization of numerous key tourism events, visitor numbers to Quang Ninh this year rose impressively compared to last year, according to the Chairman of the Quang Ninh Provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Duc Long. The province welcomed 10.7 million tourists in the first ten months, including more than 4 million foreigners, up 25 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively, against the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the city’s Department of Tourism.

Quang Ninh province has organized some 100 events within the Ha Long - Quang Ninh National Tourism Year of 2018; the first tourism year in the province and organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in cooperation with the provincial Department of Culture and Sports.

Vietnam welcomed 14.1 million international arrivals in the first eleven months, up 21.3 per cent over the same period last year. It received its 10 millionth visitor for the first time two years ago, at the end of 2016.

The continuous growth in tourist arrivals can be partly attributed to Vietnam’s efforts to relax its visa policies. It first offered visa waivers for citizens from five European countries - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK - in July 2015, and the policy had been updated annually.