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City’s tourism pins high hopes on New Year

2010-01-07 (GMT + 7)

Tour operators had a happy first day of the New Year as thousands of international visitors arrived in HCMC in the morning of January 1 amidst the vivid welcoming ceremony right at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

Flowers, folk music and envelopes of lucky money, or lixi, were handed to the first visitors upon their arrivals.

The first group of 180 guests arrived from Frankfurt, Germany on a Vietnam Airlines flight. The next group of 210 visitors arrived on a Thai Airways’ flight.

Vietnam Airlines itself transported nearly 3,200 visitors from Europe, Australia and North Asia on the first day of 2010.

Many of the visitors showed interest in the folk music performance and stayed a while at the airport to take pictures of the musicians and to applaud their work before going through customs to enter the city.

One couple from the Netherlands, Theo Jansen and Trudy Jansen, were surprised at the welcoming rituals at the airport.

“Like the queen or something,” Mrs. Jansen said. “I’ve heard this holiday (Solar New Year Day) is not for Vietnamese to celebrate, that’s why I am surprised with the ceremony with flowers and presents like this.”

“Our daughter was here for three months last year. She loves being here. As what she told us about Vietnam, we like the culture of the country too and want to explore more,” Mr. Jansen said.

Several travel firms were busy welcoming their first guests of the year. Vietravel received 10 tourists, Asian Trails Co. Ltd. 38 guests, and Saigontourist Travel Service Co. welcomed an American couple to the country for their luxury honeymoon. The special guests were two among 1,000 international tourists from America, Europe and other countries catered to by Saigontourist from the first to the fifth day of the New Year.

La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, was pleased with the international arrivals.

“We had a tough year in 2009 and we are pinning high hopes on a recovery of the inbound sector this year,” he told the Daily.

The city received around 2.6 million foreign visitors in 2009, down by around 200,000 compared to 2008. This is the first decline of international visitors since the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.
HCMC expects 2.8 million international visitors this year.

The city’s tourism sector is asking the city government for higher budget for tourism promotion in 2010. Last year, HCMC spent VND9 billion on such activities.

Source: VietNamNet/SGT

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