Vietnam travel firm wants visa waiver for Russians extended

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PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE
A local beside three Russian tourists at the 2-4 Square in Nha Trang Town, the central province of Khanh Hoa

Vietnam's tourism authorities should extend the visa waiver program for Russian tourists from 15 days to one month, a travel company's representative told a conference on Sunday.

Longer free stays will attract more tourists, especially the elderly who want to avoid the winter in Russia for long periods and people who want to spend summer vacations with their children, said Mikhail Simonov, director general of Anh Duong Travel Company.

Simonov made the statement at a meeting on Vietnamese central coastal provinces' tourism organized in Khanh Hoa Province, the Thoi bao kinh te Sai Gon (Saigon Times) reported.

According to Simonov, Russians consider Vietnam's beautiful coastline an ideal destination for long vacations, as their home country is situated in the temperate zone.

In fact, more and more Russians have been extending their stays in Vietnam, he was quoted as saying.

One of the major tour operators focused on the Russian market, Anh Duong now operates 10-15-day tours for Russians to coastal destinations like Nha Trang, Da Nang and Hoi An year around.

The company operates two flights from Russia to Cam Ranh International Airport in Khanh Hoa province every day during the low season. The number of flights doubles during the peak season, which starts in October.

Official figures showed that last year over 174,000 Russian tourists visited Vietnam, up more than 71 percent compared to 2011.

Despite an overall decrease in international tourists to Vietnam over the first five months of this year, Russian tourism increased 57.8 percent over the same period last year, to nearly 137,000 tourists, the Saigon Times reported.

Focus on sea tourism

At the conference, Nguyen Van Tuan, general director of the Vietnam Administration of Tourism, urged central coastal provinces to focus on their beaches that have possibilities to develop high quality resorts and services, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

He also advised them to develop island tours in combination with cruises.

According to Tuan, the provinces have become destinations among foreign tourists, but failed to offer unique experiences or apply effective marketing and management methods and thus, have not seen many tourists return for second visits.

Tran Du Lich, head of a consultancy group for the central coast area's development and cooperation, agreed.

He said the area hosts beautiful and unique beaches, but considering their potential, the ways they are being used for tourism are not "remarkable."

Most of the provinces offer a similar experience, so they failed to attract tourists, according to Lich.

Central coastal provinces need to invest and develop sea and island tourism to compete with other countries, said Tran Dinh Thien, director of the Vietnam Institute for Economics.

It was reported at the conference that the central coast tourism grew over 13 percent per year between 2008 and 2012.

Last year, the area attracted nearly 17 million tourists, including over four million foreigners, and earned over VND18 trillion (US$855 million) from tourism. 

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