The Thien Minh Group has announced plans to begin offering seaplane tours this September, to tap Vietnam's untouched premium travel sector.
General Director Tran Trong Minh said the company, which owns Hai Au Aviation Company, is expected to become the first supplier of seaplane tourism services in the country.
The company will import two seaplanes in July which will take off for trial flights a month later, he said.
Minh said the seaplanes will operate on the Hanoi – Ha Long route during the first stage, before expanding to other routes, including Ho Chi Minh City – Phan Thiet – Nha Trang and further south into the Mekong Delta.
The company’s plan is the first response to a call from tourism officials to develop high-value tourism services in Vietnam.
At the Vietnam Singapore Business Forum in HCMC last week, Nguyen Quy Phuong, director of the Travel Department under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said that Vietnam's tourism industry has not been properly developed.
“In 2013, Singapore received 385,000 tourists from Vietnam. Meanwhile, only 195,000 Singaporeans visited Vietnam, mostly for business purposes, last year.”
“It is one of the examples showing that Vietnam has not done a good job of creating proper tourism services. It is the lack of new elements and high-quality resorts and entertainment services that did failed to attract international tourists,” he said.
According to the Travel Department, Vietnam received about 7.5 million international tourists and earned more than US$10 billion in 2013.
“Vietnam has a great deal of tourism potential but its products and infrastructure have not been developed sufficiently,” Phuong said.
A Thien Minh Group representative told VietNamNet that the plan to supply seaplane tourism service was initiated in 2013 to exploit the untouched high-value travel sectors in Vietnam.
“We decided to develop tourism with the low flying planes because Vietnam has a long coastline. It is difficult to travel by road while large planes cannot go everywhere.”
“Meanwhile, seaplane don't require a long runway but can fly low to allow tourists to see the sights below and have an interesting experience,” he said.
Thien Minh will import two Cesna Caravan 2014 seaplanes which can carry 12-18 passengers each from the US next month and plans to buy the third one in December.
The company said they will hire experienced pilots from the US, Canada and Vietnam and the services will target international tourists and high-income locals.
The company will charge a total of $4,000 for a one-hour flight--divided among the passengers.
A Hanoi-Ha Long one-way flight, which takes half an hour, will cost around $250 per person. An extra $100 will be charged for scenic flights around Ha Long Bay, according to the company.
Ha Quang Long, director of Quang Ninh Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the seaplane tours are expected to lure more visitors to Ha Long Bay.
“With a 250 kilometer coastline and Ha Long and Bai Tu Long bays, Quang Ninh will better serve international and local tourists thanks to the new seaplane flights,” he said.
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