Russian tourists stranded in Vietnam as tour operator goes bust

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At least 300 Russian tourists are stranded in the resort town of Mui Ne after a major Russian tourism firm that brought them to Vietnam went bankrupt last week.

It would take around two weeks to send them all home, a Russian diplomat said.

Lanta-Tour Voyage, one of Russia's largest tour operators, declared bankruptcy January 27 and shut down because of its "inability to adequately provide funding for contracted services," according to its official website.

The suspension has affected more than 8,000 Russian tourists traveling abroad including those in Vietnam, news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing Oleg Moseyev, spokesman for Russia's Tourism Agency.

Sergey Babakhin, head of the consular section at the Russian embassy in Hanoi, said 309 Russian tourists are stranded in several resorts in Mui Ne.

"Most of them arrived by chartered flight," he said.

The tourists have been unable to check out because Lanta-Tour did not transfer money totaling some US$300,000 to the resorts that housed them, he said.

"All these [tourists] must leave Vietnam by February 8," he told Thanh Nien News. After that, the Vietnamese resorts could go to court or negotiate with the Russian government tourist agency to get their money, he said.

The resorts have held on to the visitors' passports to prevent them from leaving.

Meanwhile, the Russian consul in Ho Chi Minh City met with Mui Ne authorities Monday to discuss a way out.

"At the meeting, they concluded that all the Russian tourists must be able to return without double payment," Babakhin said.

A group of around 50 will be leaving for Russia Tuesday, he added.

Konstantin Prihodko, director of the Vietnam branch of Lanta-Tour, told Thanh Nien News that his company would have to pay up.

He is set to go to Mui Ne to meet with the resort owners.

"We've asked the [resorts] not to collect money from our clients."

Lanta-Tour, set up in 1991, sold foreign tours to about 100,000 Russians last year, according to its website.

Russians often flock to Mui Ne and Nha Trang between November and March, the coldest time of the year in their country.

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