Vietnam tourism 2007: More, regular, richer visitors
Vietnam’s tourism industry saw a good year in 2007 with virtually no off-peak season, observers report. New options exist for foreign travelers and, as demand rises dramatically, travel companies have begun chartering flights and see the income-brackets of the travelers they host rise significantly.
The number of European arriving on charter flights reportedly increased significantly last year. Asian Trails Travel, to name but one example, flew 350 travelers from Stockholm to Ho Chi Minh City every two weeks last year.
The group took in beaches at Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and finally Phu Quoc Vietnam, where they stayed for two weeks. On average, each traveler paid some US$1,500 for the tour, excluding other expenses, before another chartered flight took them home after flying in a new group.
Tour guide Pham Ngoc Khoa said the Swedish visitors were interested in clothing, handicrafts and Vietnamese silk when taken to Ben Thanh Market and each spent some US$300 shopping in Ho Chi Minh City. They also liked the local cuisine, adds Khoa, especially dinner on boats on the Saigon River and seafood in Phan Thiet Vietnam.
Asian Trails Travel Director Bui Viet Thuy Tien said the company plans to add another charter flight per week from May 2008.
Yet Viet-Russian-owned GSO Travel is renowned as a local company which brought more chartered travelers than most to Vietnam in 2007.
Reportedly, on charters from Russia to VietNam last year there was hardly an empty seat. In winter, the nation’s tropical setting becomes a preferred destination of wealthy, travel-loving Russians.
Russian visitors cite convenient flights, warm weather, friendly people and good service as their top reasons for choosing Vietnam. Tourbazar Travel is apparently a preferred agent for helping Russians escape their harsh winter.
On the GSO website, a user named “Nadia” wrote she liked Vietnam’s cheap hotels and transport, spa services, cheap, fresh seafood and fruits, leather wallets and belts, pearls, fabrics and handmade souvenirs. As to places to go, Nadia named Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, Vung Tau and Hoi An Vietnam.
Tourism grew rapidly last year. Saigontourist Travel Service welcomed over 44,000 visitors, exceeding 2006 by 57%, thanks to renewed collaboration with Star Cruises.
And travelers to Vietnam are becoming wealthier than in earlier years, partly thanks to increasing numbers of cruise passengers disembarking here.
Tour guide Tri Dung claims American and Australian cruise tourist spend the most while here, some up to US$3,000, and many have complained to him about how little time is allotted to shopping.
Saigontourist reports that in 2007 European tourists, especially French and German, increased by over 50% while visitors from U.S. rose by 49% claims Premium Travel.