The number of Vietnamese visitors to China declined by 20-30 percent in the past two months, due to the current economic crisis and the recent tension in the East Sea, VnExpress reported Tuesday.
Tran Van Long, the director of Viet Media Travel, was quoted as saying that the number of customers booking tour packages to China with his company decreased some 30 percent in June and July.
In the past, Long said between 300-350 customers booked tours to China every month. But, recently, that number has dropped to around 100.
Though the autumn is considered the best time to go, he added, so far only three or four groups have booked trips to China.
Saigon Tourist has only booked about 650 tours to mainland China this summer--a year-on-year drop of nearly 30 percent, said the company's spokesperson Doan Thanh Tra.
The decline was most pronounced for those traveling on the state budget, she noted, adding that the number of tourists to Hong Kong and Macau increased during the same period.
Nguyen Thi Huyen, director of Vietran Tour, attributed the decline to the economic crisis where people had to tighten their spending, according to the VnExpress report.
Several tourists, however, attributed changes in their travel plans to the recent tension in the East Sea.
Thu Huong, who lives in Hanoi's Dong Da District said her family just returned from a tour to Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Initially, their party had included a number of relatives who later decided to travel to Singapore-Malaysia, instead, citing concerns about the political tension.
Vu The Binh, chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association, argued that the decline was "normal" given the current economic difficulties, high visa fees (US$60 per application) and complicated procedures.
The price of many Chinese tours were out of the reach for most normal Vietnamese people, he said.
"The East Sea tension between the two countries is also a factor, because tourism is very sensitive to political turmoil, but it was not the main reason for the recent decline," he said.
But "if the East Sea remains tense, it will affect tourism more strongly and seriously," Binh stressed.
According to VnExpress, the number of Chinese tourists to Vietnam has also declined.
In fact, statistics put out by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism showed that 79,000 Chinese tourists visited Vietnam in June--a 32 percent drop from the same period last year. That figure was 90,700 in July, a 13 percent drop in the number of Chinese tourists welcomed in 2011.
Luu Duc Ke, director of Hanoi Tourist, attributed the decline in Chinese tourism to economic factors.