Low-priced tours the way to go

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Tourists traveling within and outside the country are looking for cheaper options as they try to curb spending amidst high inflation, and this summer, tour operators are responding accordingly.

Duong Mai Lan, head of the marketing and planning division for Vietravel Hanoi, said most of her firm's customers are choosing low-priced, short-term tours. Thailand and Cambodia are among the favored overseas destinations and their inbound counterparts are Da Nang, Nha Trang and Quang Binh, she said.

Her firm has worked with airlines, hotels and restaurants to make sure prices do not sharply increase during the summer break, which lasts from June to August. Vietravel Hanoi expects the number of customers to rise by 20 percent to 20,000 this season.

Hanoi Redtour also said resort tours to the beaches in Da Nang, Quang Binh, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and Phu Quoc Island were attracting most of the customers this summer.

The travel agency's deputy director, Nguyen Cong Hoan, said recent increases in the number of flights have also boosted tourism to these localities. Quang Binh and Da Nang, in particular, have well organized tourism programs that help the attract more visitors, he added.

The company booked over 4,000 air tickets to domestic destinations before national carrier Vietnam Airlines increased their prices by 22 percent from May 16. Hoan said the bookings have helped keep his firm's tour prices 15-20 percent lower than those being booked now.

Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigontourist has, meanwhile, helped customers cut spending by offering tours with three-star accommodation instead of the four-star hotels they offered earlier.

"˜Free and easy'

This summer, "free and easy" tour packages have found many customers, said Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai, external relations manager of Fiditour, explaining that these are designed for those who only want basic services like air tickets and hotel bookings.

The number of customers choosing this service has increased sharply of late, she said.

Tour operators said buying air tickets or making hotel bookings through travel agencies will help travelers get prices 20-30 percent lower than those directly offered by airlines or hotels.

Hoan said buying the basic packages allows customers to be more active in choosing traveling or food and drink services. "Up to

30 percent of our customers are buying these tours," he said. His agency expects to serve 8,500-9,000 customers between May and August.

Vietnam had 2.5 million foreign visitors and 17.5 million domestic tourists in the first five months of this year, up 18 percent and 2.9 percent respectively over the same period last year, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

The director of a travel agency, who wished to be unnamed, said more customers were buying short-term tours with train and road travel, instead of long holidays by planes. He said his firm's turnover has declined this year despite having a higher number of customers.

"Our profits fell by 15 percent in the first five months of this year compared to the same period last year," he said.

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