Leaving home for Tet

TN News

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At a time when the Vietnamese diaspora heads home to celebrate Tet, the Lunar New Year, the trend of going abroad for the holiday has strengthened over the last few years.

For many people, especially youths and the nouveaux riches, Tet has become a time to explore new lands and/or snap up luxury brand products at the world’s trading centers.

As this year’s festival approaches, the number of booked tours to ASEAN countries, Hong Kong, the United States, Australia and Japan is expected to increase, along with signs of an economic recovery.

Phan Thanh Xuan, 28, who works for a joint-stock commercial bank in Hanoi, said she, together with three friends, planned to book a 5-day tour to Thailand, starting from the second day of the New Year. “Tet is the longest holiday in a year, so we will take the opportunity to relax, and go shopping.”

For many young people who are enjoying high incomes, Tet is not only a time for family reunion, but also an opportunity to shop and entertain families and friends. Trips abroad are a popular option for them.

Better services and competitive prices make the choice to go abroad easier. “With $400, I can enjoy a domestic tour to a beautiful beach in Quang Nam Province, but I have to stay all day and night in a resort, because there is nowhere to go for entertainment or shopping,” Xuan said, explaining why she chose the tour abroad for the same price.

Tran Thach Anh, an IT engineer, said he will spend the festival with his family in Japan. “We can either visit the country, or see my son. My wife has never been there,” he said, after booking a six-day tour.

According to travel agencies, tour prices surge during the Tet season, mainly due to higher aviation fees. However, the demand for tours, especially overseas ones, keeps increasing as well.

Tour prices have increased by 5-30 percent this season. A five-day trip to Thailand now costs $349, a seven-day trip to Singapore and Malaysia, $589, and four days in Hong Kong, $659.

“We are expecting to receive 12,000 customers, up 20 percent over the previous Tet. 60 percent of them have booked tours abroad,” said Duong Mai Lan, a representative of Vietravel. “Hong Kong is the most attractive destination, followed by Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.”

Nguyen Cong Hoan, deputy director of travel operator Redtour, said his company’s tours abroad are fully booked although Tet is still a month ahead.

“This year has seen the biggest-ever increase of about 170 percent in the number of booked tours to the countries,” Hoan said.

Hoan said his customers were mostly children of businesspersons or those with well-paid jobs in foreign companies or powerful state-owned enterprises in banking, finance, information technology and insurance sectors.

In the context of the economic upturn, travel agencies are expected to receive more foreign customers for domestic tours this Tet. Lan of Vietravel said her company’s foreign customers, including those from Japan, Europe and ASEAN countries, and overseas Vietnamese, are anticipated to rise by 20 percent compared to last year.

Inbound issues

Vietnam’s tourism industry is facing a shortage of hotels and human resources with good foreign language skills. It also needs more effective promotion campaigns and suitable development strategies, the lack of which was limiting growth, insiders said.

According to the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT), only 30 percent of foreign tourists to Vietnam want to return the country, mainly businesspeople coming to Vietnam to study investment and business opportunities.

But director of VNAT’s Travel Department Vu The Binh said, “The number (of foreign visitors returning to the country) is normal, as tourism is mainly about discovery. So, if you visit one country this year, you want make a trip to another the next year.”

Vietnam now is still an attractive destination, he said. The country lured 3.8 million foreign arrivals last year.

“However, we have many things to do to attract new visitors and encourage old ones to return. It is necessary to have the participation of many sectors in improving promotion and service quality,” Binh said.

The VNAT plans to implement promotion campaigns in some key tourism markets including Germany, Russia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia in the first quarter of this year.

Hoan of Redtour said tour prices in Vietnam were high, which could make them less attractive for visitors. However, the country can earn small profits, only from the tour price, but not from their purchasing of goods and services.

“We should attract visitors with low-priced tours, but take measures to encourage them to spend much more money than in their country,” he said. He gave an example that Vietnamese citizens use just $250-300 to buy a tour to Thailand, but spend an additional $500-700 on buying its products and services.

Lan of Vietravel said, “We have to strengthen advertising and marketing of our products, especially traditional ones. Almost all visitors to Japan buy its traditional wine, Sake. Meanwhile, a few people know our “Lua Moi” wine.”

Reported by Ngan Anh

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