It has been the most anticipated event of the year, but travel agents and domestic tourists do not seem to be caught up in the enthusiasm as Hanoi's 1,000th anniversary celebration gets underway today.
There has been no increase in prices of tours, but travel agents are concerned about difficulties in transportation because of the ban on vehicles on several streets. They are also worried about the traffic jams likely to occur during the ten-day festivities.
Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy director of travel agent Hanoi Redtour, said: "We are not providing tours to Hanoi for this event."
It was difficult to work out plans for the tours because the event's detailed program was declared too late, he said.
"The most difficult part for tours at this time is not booking air tickets or hotels, but vehicles to transport visitors," he said.
The Hanoi Transport Department did not announce the list of streets where vehicles will be banned on the festive days until September 20, while most travel agents have to book hotels months earlier.
Many hotels are located on banned streets, so it would be impossible to get there by car. Also, agents could not cancel bookings they'd already made to seek other hotels with better access and facilities for their customers.
Other shortcomings in organizing the festival have also puzzled travel agents. Hoan said: "We don't know which programs (of the event) visitors can attend, or where to buy tickets for them." He was also concerned about taking care of his customers as a huge number of visitors will rush to Hanoi at this time.
Duong Mai Lan, head of the market research and development bureau of travel agent Vietravel, admitted that the number of visitors booking tours on the occasion of the festival is not big. Her firm is now still selling tours for local customers to Hanoi during the festival.
Due to the ban on vehicles in some routes, and difficulties in booking hotels, the firm has to change some programs in tours to Hanoi during this event, Lan said. "We may book hotels in Ha Long Town instead of Hanoi as previously planned."
Nguyen Ngoc An, who is in charge of domestic tours for travel agent Fiditour, said they had not focused on attracting tourists for the occasion, partly due to difficulties in booking low-cost air tickets, and transportation of customers in vehicle-banned streets.
The firm has received more than 100 customers for Hanoi tours during the event, he said.
Some people in Ho Chi Minh City have said they are fed up of the traffic jams in their own city and do not want to experience the same again in Hanoi.
The director of a travel agency said it was not peak tourism season right now. There are a few families booking tours, because children have to go to school, he said.
Plenty of room
Hanoi expects to welcome 700,000 to 800,000 local and foreign visitors during the event, according to the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
However, even given this influx, there has been no shortage of hotel rooms for visitors and prices have not increased by much.
Lan of Vietravel said most hotel rooms had been reserved months ago, so there was no increase in the prices.
A representative of the Hoa Binh hotel said: "The possibility of hotel room shortage is very low. We have many rooms vacant right now."
To serve visitors for the occasion, Hanoi has garnered an additional 4,000 hotel rooms. The city now has ten five-star hotels, several dozen four or three-star ones, and many mini hotels.