Travel agents have resorted to taking domestic tourists on tours abroad after failing to get air tickets for inbound destinations, especially those on special discount offers.
"It is difficult to book enough air tickets for groups of 20 visitors upwards in the same flight on some routes," said Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy director of travel agency Hanoi Redtour. "Now it is the tourist season, so Vietnam Airlines tickets sell out quickly."
Travel agents in Ho Chi Minh City who are participating in the domestic tourism promotion program launched by the Vietnam National Tourism Administration bought only 2,089 tickets under the special offer for Vietnam Airlines flights departing in July, down from 4,052 in June.
The tickets were booked in May or June, before Vietnam Airlines stopped selling the tickets offered under the domestic tourism promotion program from July 1 to August 15.
Vietnam Airlines had earlier committed to sell a number of tickets on some routes at a 50 percent discount during the year.
Stopping the special offer has increased tour prices, making it difficult for travel agents to lure local customers.
Although Vietnam Airlines brought back its special offer on Thursday, it has not become easier for travel agencies to book the tickets, as they need it for the "rush hour" weekends or holidays, Hoan said. "We want to book some 2,000 tickets on special offer from now to the end of this year, but only 40 percent of them have been confirmed."
Luu Duc Ke, director of Hanoi Tourist, said a number of customers have chosen low-priced outbound tours, mainly to Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand, instead of their initially planned domestic tours.
Hoan of Redtour said his company had to book tickets with low cost airline Jetstar Pacific on some routes. However, the number of domestic air routes operated by Jetstar Pacific is much smaller than that of Vietnam Airlines.
When getting air tickets becomes too difficult, his customers traveling between Hanoi and destinations like Nha Trang and Da Nang have to travel by train, or accept a more distant flight route that has fewer passengers.
The national tourism authority has targeted 4.2 million foreign tourists and 27-28 million domestic travelers in 2010.