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It's World Cup time and more than football fans are getting ready for a good time

Men look at a display of flat-screen televisions at a shopping mall in Hanoi

With no stone being left unturned in building up the drama and hype ahead of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, things are heating up in football crazy-Vietnam.

Businesses are banking on a sales frenzy, offering myriad services and products to help the fans enjoy the event in different settings and with different products.

Garment trader Nguyen Duc Anh from Thanh Xuan District of Hanoi is avidly seeking more distributors for sports garments that carry names and jersey numbers of famous players from this year's 32 World Cup football teams.

He imports most of them from China at VND100,000-200,000 (US$5.3-10.5) per set, while some others are obtained from Europe for VND2-3 million.

Not surprisingly, sales of TVs have sharply increased since early last month. Nguyen Thi Van Anh, public relations officer at Pico Plaza, said: "The number of TVs we sell now doubles that of ordinary days. Each day, we sell some 200 sets. The number rises to 400-500 at weekends."

LCD or plasma 32-inch TVs of Samsung, LG, Sharp, and Panasonic priced at VND6-7 million are selling the best, she said. However, she felt the sale of TVs could reach its peak next week when the World Cup gets even closer.

Many supermarkets and shops selling electronic products have launched promotion campaigns, announced price reductions and lottery programs to lure customers.

Van Anh said Pico is offering, from May 29-June 13, 10,000 LCD TVs at "shocking" prices. Under the program, customers will enjoy big price reductions or get gifts on their purchases.

The promotional program that stands out is that of the Nguyen Kim supermarket. Customers who correctly predict the results of the World Cup, the winner and the finalists, stand to win two limousines with a combined value of VND6 billion ($315,000).

Cafés and restaurants are also in a race for luring football fans who gather to see live broadcast World Cup matches. Some of these establishments are installing large-screen LCD TVs, while others have launched other promotional campaigns with discounts on food and drinks consumed while watching the matches.

Mobile phone operators have not lagged behind. From June 10, Vinaphone will offer Live TV World Cup 2010 for subscribers using their mobile TV service. Paying VND30,000 for registration, Vinaphone subscribers can watch directly telecast World Cup matches via the Mobile TV service.

Tepid response

Unlike other services, the tourism industry does not seem to be participating in the race for World Cup customers. Travel agents have no plans to launch tours to South Africa, which is hosting the 2010 World Cup, as it has not been a favored destination for Vietnamese tourists.

Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy director of the Hanoi Red Tour travel agency, said there is no direct flight route from Vietnam to South Africa, so traveling to the country is complicated. During the World Cup, prices of services in the country will be higher, and ordering tickets for the matches is not easy, because of large number of tourists and soccer fans.

Hoan said that a nine-day tour to South Africa is normally priced at $2,000-2,500 per person, but it may double during the World Cup. Thus, the number of tourists to the country on this occasion is not high.

Mai Lan, a representative from travel agent Vietravel said organizing tours to South Africa is not as easy as those to Germany or South Korea and Japan, which hosted previous World Cup editions. Also, buying tickets for World Cup matches, especially the final, is not easy, and prices are very high compared to the income of Vietnamese people, she said.

Just 50 people so far have registered for tours to South Africa to visit the country and to watch matches during the World Cup, she added.

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