Russian tourists sad to leave Vietnam early

At noon on February 1, when performing exit formalities at HCM City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Russian student Shumilov Ivan expressed his sadness because he had to leave Vietnam early, owing to Lanta Tur Voyage’s bankruptcy.

Ivan, 20, from the Moscow Friendship University, said that he and some friends arrived in Vietnam on January 24, for their ten-day vacation in Binh Thuan province in central Vietnam.

Ivan and his friends experienced a good time in Binh Thuan, with satisfactory services. However, several days ago, Ivan watched TV at a resort in Phan Thiet and knew that Lanta Tur Voyage, which had sold the Vietnam tour to him, went bankrupt and abandoned its tourists. Ivan had paid this firm around $1,100 for his tour to Vietnam, including a round air ticket and hotel services.

“Lanta Viet has not notified us about this incident. Earlier, we were assisted by tour guides but since the incident occurred, we have not been able to contact with Lanta’s representatives,” Ivan said.

Ivan and his friends were sad to leave Vietnam early but they were ready for any circumstance.

“I wish to stay longer in Vietnam, until February 4 as my schedule, but if I stay here I will have to pay hotel charges. I do not have enough money so I have to return home early,” he said.

To come back home on a flight of Transaero, Ivan had to pay for one night at a hotel in Binh Thuan and transport fees from Binh Thuan to Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCM City.

“I hope that when I return to Moscow, Lanta’s case will be solved. Anyway, I have had a memorable trip in beautiful Vietnam,” he added.

The noon flight on February 1, brought Ivan and some Russian tourists back to Russia. It was the second flight by Transaero for Russian who were clients of Lanta Tur Voyage in Vietnam.

On January 31, ten Russian visitors were also transported back home on another flight of this carrier. In the upcoming days, this airline will continue this task.

Le Van Nghia, chief representative of Transaero in Vietnam, said that the carrier assists Russian tourists because this is the chance to show off a friendly Vietnam.

Nghia said he has worked for 20 years in the tourism industry but this is the first time he sees such an incident. “Lanta is the first Russian firm that brought Russian tourists to Vietnam, with the highest number so far. There were flights of us with half of the passengers being Lanta’s tourists,” he added.

Nghia said that most Russian tourists did not want to leave Vietnam early. Those who can afford to pay accepted to spend more money to stay in Vietnam as their schedules.

Representatives of the Russian Embassy in Hanoi said that after Lanta Tur Voyage went bankrupt, tourist firms and hotels in Mui Ne (Binh Thuan) keep serving Russian tourists normally. They do not hinder tourists from leaving, not hold tourists’ passports or claim they pay accommodation fees.

The Embassy negotiated with some airlines, including Vietnam Airlines, Aeroflot, S7 and Transaero, to bring Russian tourists back home before February 10.

“Russian relevant agencies have begun to investigate Lanta Tur Voyage. In general, this case is the dispute between Lanta Viet with Vietnamese tourist companies,” said Bakeeva Ekaterina, the first Secretary of the Russian Embassy.

Lanta Tur Voyage, the parent company of Lanta Viet, is the leading and age-old travel firm in Russia, with thousands of agents in many countries around the world. On January 27, this company suddenly stated to go bankrupt. Thousands of Russian tourists who bought this company’s tours are stuck in many countries, including 309 who travel Phan Thiet of Vietnam. By February 1, around 184 Russian visitors were still stuck in Binh Thuan.

In Vietnam, Lanta Viet owes resorts in Mui Ne around VND10 billion ($500,000). On February 1, Konstantin, General Director of Lanta Viet met with officials of the Binh Thuan Tourism Association, the representative of resorts and hotels in Binh Thuan.

According to Lanta Tur Voyage, this company made a deposit of around $3.5 million of travel insurance premium to Ingosstrakh to pay for its tourists in case of problem. The deadline for payment is May 31. However, resorts in Mui Ne are very worried about the payment ability of this firm. They said that Lanta Tur’s deposit is not enough to cover expenditures for all 8,000 Russian tourists who are stuck in many countries like Thailand, India, Vietnam,etc.

Nguyen Tri Thoai, deputy managing director of Hoang Ngoc Resort in Mui Ne, said that Lanta Viet has cooperated with his resort for three years. The last contract was signed in November 2011. Lanta Viet currently owes his resort around $100,000.

“The contract’s deadline is March 2012 but at this moment, we only need to verify Lanta Viet’s debt,” he said worriedly.

Most of resorts and hotels, which are partners of Lanta Tur, said that the role of Lanta Viet is very dim becase this subsidiary is out of financial ability. It completely depends on the parent firm in Russia in solving risks.

In latest news, the Russian government has requested its credit institutions to provide Russian company Lanta Tur Voyage with sufficient capital to continue its operations. Russia has also asked its banks and Lanta to reckon up the public debts in countries that Russian tourists came to, Nguyen Thanh Tam, Vice Chairman of the Binh Thuan provincial People’s Committee said at a working session between Binh Thuan authorities, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the Russian Consulate General, and the CEO of Lanta Viet Travel on February 1.

The Russian Consulate General affirmed that Lanta Tur Voyage has resumed its normal operations and already sent its announcement to its branch offices across the globe.

The Representative of the Russian Consulate General said that the Russian side highly appreciates the effective assistance of the Binh Thuan provincial People’s Committee, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, and local hotels and resorts in helping Russian tourists stranded in Vietnam.

According to the Russian Consulate General, the Russian tourists stranded in the Lanta incident expressed their good impressions of Vietnam and its hospitality. Some who can pay more money have decided to stay longer in Vietnam.


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Central coast travel agencies gear up for 2012 tourism year

To prepare for this important year, tour operators in the region have come up with many innovations to develop tourism and create a link with other regions in the future.

Hoang Tuan Anh, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, once said the central coastal region from Thua Thien – Hue to Binh Thuan held a special position in Vietnam’s tourism map.

“The region has special natural resources, including the world’s cultural heritage sites and a great diversity of eco-system and environment,” said Anh.

According to the Minister, the region’s tourism potentials were undertapped.

All major operators have agreed to establish a network; they considered it a vital matter for the sector’s development. Yet, up to now they have not found a really competent “conductor of the show”.

Director of the Kim Lien International Tour Operator Phan Duc Man said even now his company did not have its own trade mark to promote the company’s image in the domestic and foreign tourism market.

He didn’t know where he could get the support in the application of the trade mark.

Man suggested that tour operators in the region sit together and discuss the establishment of a regional tourism management board.

“The manager of the board should be a member from the Central Tourism Board,” Man said.

“Whatever we do is to attract more tourists to the region.”

However, in his opinion, a very important factor in tourism development is to raise the awareness of the community, including Government officials.

Director General of the Mekong International Travel Company Nguyen Minh Thu wanted to have a network established among tour operators and travel agents.

“The seamless tourism co-operation will make us strong,” Thu said

“This is the way for us to increase our benefits and reinvest in our business and make it sustainable.”

In her point of view, “Tourism is the glue that makes people feel closer to each other and enjoy a good time together. Tourism is an opportunity to sell local products.”

Cao Tri Dung, director of the Vietnam Travel Joint Stock Company, proposed a cluster of tours in the central coastal region similar to that of the heritage sites in the region.

“The tour could start from Da Nang-Quy Nhon and end in Nha Trang,” Dung said.

He said the Da Nang–Nha Trang flight route was already in operation.

“If it is possible, the flights between Hue-Nha Trang and Da Nang–Quy Nhon should increase. This is an important factor enabling the tourists to visit more sites in the region within a few days,” said Dung.

He also suggested the development of the homestay tour to fishing villages, as many people living along the coastal line lived on fishing.

Vietnam hopes to turn the tourism industry into an important and dynamic economic sector in 2011– a major player in the national economic development.


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Saigon Railways online sale of Tet train tickets begins

Saigon Railways began online sale of Tet tickets at 8am Tuesday on their website, well in time for the coming Lunar New Year.

Passengers can now book train tickets online by downloading and filling up a form with details of full name, address and personal identity numbers. One person can buy a maximum of eight return tickets only.

Separate calendar dates have been specified for sale of Tet tickets to different destinations to prevent network congestion.

For instance, online train tickets for Dong Ha City in Quang Tri Province from Hanoi will be available from November 15-20 on the above website.

For stations between Hue and Ho Chi Minh City tickets will be available from November 22-27.

Tickets for the route from Saigon to Hanoi will be sold from December 1-10. After December 10, people can directly purchase tickets at railway stations.

Payments must be made within 72 hours via ATM or branches of the Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade. They can also be made direct at railway stations or agency offices.

Passengers must present booking codes, receipt of payment and identity papers to receive tickets at the Saigon Railway Station 2 hours before departure time. They can also collect their tickets 24 hours after payment has been made in a bank.

Passengers wanting to return tickets bought for January 8-21 must do so 24 hours (not 10 hours) ahead of departure time and receive a refund after a 30 percent deduction.

Vietnam train ticket prices will increase by 10 percent from January 8 to February 13, and by 19-39 percent during peak Tet holiday season.

Higher ticket rates will apply from January 14 to January 21, 2012 before the Tet holidays and January 26 to February 3, 2012 after the Tet holiday season ends.

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Airlines clear the way for tourism to develop

The outbound tours would be more diversified and more convenient in the next year, when a lot of domestic and foreign airlines are planning to open new air routes from Vietnam to foreign countries, offering good airfares.

In the past, travel firms always were the ones who explored and developed new routes and then discusses with airlines to find out the best airfares, which allowed to design the tours with competitive tour fees. However, the roles have been interchanged as airlines themselves act as the advanced parties, who march forward and suggest cooperation with travel firms to attract more travelers.

When airlines go ahead

In early November 2011, Vietnam Airlines, the national flag air carrier, cooperated with South Korean Arirang travel firm to bring representatives of leading HCM City-based travel firms to the new destinations on the itinerary from Busan to Seoul. In the immediate time, travel firms can design the tours for the travelers who want to enjoy the winter in the land of gimchi with skiing areas, warm indoor water parks, amusement park Lotte World. After that, from next year, many other tours would be designed for different seasons of the year.

In the winter flight schedule, Vietnam Airlines has decided to provide direct flights from Vietnam to London in the UK from December 8, 2011. The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism VNAT is building up a promotion campaign to support domestic travel firms to grab the opportunities to attract British travelers.

Not only the domestic Vietnam Airlines, foreign air carriers have also paved the way for the cooperation between airlines and travel firms. The representative of Air Mauritius in November carried out a survey and discussed with partners, so that it can introduce clients to Vietnamese travel firms.

In order to encourage Vietnamese travel firms to learn about Mauritius, an island in Indian Ocean which remains unfamiliar to Vietnamese people, the air carrier has decided to offer preferential airfares until December 31, 2011.

Meanwhile, the office of Air Mauritius in Vietnam has been authorized to follow procedures to grant visas to Vietnamese travelers. Just five days after receiving lawful documents for applying for visas, people would get visas after paying the fee of 30 dollars.

Travel firms believe that once the tours to Mauritius are designed, they would attract a lot of Vietnamese travelers. Mauritius is warm all year round, many beautiful beaches, waterfall rapids, hills, colorful land, and a lot of beautiful landscapes created by volcanic activities.

The way for development widened

Jet Airways can see the opportunities to attract the clients who travel between Vietnam and India, which has prompted it to sign a strategic cooperation agreement with Vietnam Airline in October, which prepared the way to open a direct air route between the two countries.

While waiting for the direct air route to be opened, Jet Airways has offered the special airfares for return tickets for the year-end season. The passengers who fly from Vietnam to India, only have to pay 381 dollars, and if counting on the taxes, the sums of money passengers have to pay are still lower than the airfares set up by other airlines.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhien, Deputy Director of Vector Aviation, the general booking agent of Jet Airways in Vietnam, said that with the reasonable airfares and the network of more than 50 destination points of Jet Airways’ network, it would be easy for travel firms to organize tours.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thanh Hai from Fiditour said he pays a special attention to the fact that Aerosvit Airlines will provide direct flights from HCM City to Kiev from December 23, 2011. The air carrier, with 70 destination points, would allow passengers to travel to many countries in the world, which can create favorable conditions for travel firms to design the tours to Europe.

(Source: SGTT)

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Railway development in Vietnam

Having a 2600 kilometer railway with hundreds of essential routes along the North-South backbone, Vietnam still cannot persuade travelers to choose railways services. Statistics showed that the travelers that choose railways for their tours just account for less than 10 percent of public passenger transport.

Some travel firms in Vietnam said that in Vietnam there is only the service of carrying passengers by Vietnam trains, while there are still no railway tourism products in the true sense of the word, though some routes have been designed to serve tours, including the Hanoi – Lao Cai, Hanoi – Vinh, Hanoi – HCM City, HCM City – Nha Trang or Hanoi – Nam Dinh tours.

According to travel firms, a tourism product’s attractiveness can be measured by the passenger’s satisfaction and the number of passengers. If referring to the two criteria, only the Hanoi – Lao Cai route could be seen as a railway tourism product.

Luu Duc Ke, Director of Hanoitourist, said that only the Hanoi – Lao Cai route has been exploited in the most effective way. This is also the route which sees the number of tourists increasing gradually year after year. A lot of travel firms have also made investment to develop the route. However, it’s still far from concluding that the service is perfect.

Meanwhile, the railway along the key Highway 1A, which is thought to have the biggest transport advantages, has not got appropriate investment.

Besides the disadvantages of railway tourism, including the required longer time of traveling than aircrafts or cars, railway tourists now have to face too many other problems, such as the bad conditions of rails, the natural calamities in the central region. Especially, local residents sometimes throw stones and bricks into the running trains, which badly affect the feelings of tourists. Therefore, travel firms themselves also do not want to spend money to develop the railways.

Since late 2010, when some travel firms began applying the policy on stabilizing the tour fees by diversifying the means of transport, and encouraging to travel on train to save money, the number of railway passengers on the 1A route has been increasing.

However, passengers complain that the quality of the service has not been much improved. The upgrading in interior and train services cannot offset the degrading of the carriages and professional servicemen.

Nguyen Minh Man, a senior executive of Vietravel, said that most travel firms use all the air, railway and land transport means for their domestic tours. The number of passengers remain high for the long distance routes such as the HCM City – Hanoi one. However, it is clear that train is less attractive than airplane due to the disadvantages in time and price.

While railway a ticket is not much cheaper than an airway ticket, passengers have to spend much more time on the way for the same distance, while the railway services are clearly worse.

Railway servicemen and travel firms many times sat together to discuss the cooperation solutions. However, it seems that no common voice has been found. Railway servicemen complain that travel firms cannot provide stable numbers of passengers: while the number is overly high on weekend or holidays, the number is too low on ordinary days.

Meanwhile, Ke has emphasized that railway cannot compete with other means of transport because of the unreasonable pricing policy and low quality of services, not because passengers do not have high demand for traveling, or because travelers are not interested in railway.

“Problems also exist in the distribution. Travelers cannot book tickets directly, but through intermediaries. Meanwhile, passengers cannot book tickets several months before the departure time,” Ke said.

To prove the viewpoint, Ke said that foreign travelers always book tours nearly one year in advance. Meanwhile, travel firms still cannot book tickets for the 2012 Tet.

“With such way of doing business, railway will not be able to attract many travelers,” he said.

(Source: To Quoc)

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Elderly bicyclists support Vote for Ha Long Bay Campaign

Nearly 100 bicyclists from the UNESCO Cultural and Sports Exchange Club for Elderly People in Hanoi started a bicycle tour from Hanoi to Ha Long on November 6 to support the Vote for Ha Long Bay Campaign.

During their tour through Hai Duong and Hai Phong provinces, they will visit historical sites and encourage local people to vote for the Bay as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

They are scheduled to reach their finish line when the New7wonders organization announces the final voting results on November 11.

Over the past 15 years, the UNESCO Exchange Club has conducted 447 bicycle trips to all the regions in the country.

(Source: VOV)

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Flights to Vietnam

The tourism industry is relatively new in Vietnam, but it’s not hard to see why people book flights to Vietnam. Rated one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Vietnam also maintains its status as one of the romantic countries thanks to its lush landscape. While some travelers book flights to Vietnam to experience the breadth of the culture and scenery, others travel to Vietnam for far more personal reasons.

The first step in supporting the Vietnamese economy is booking a flight to Vietnam. From there, dine in local eateries, buy amenities (soap, water, toothpaste, sanitary items) from small family-owned shops and before buying souvenirs, make sure they are produced in Vietnam. As a tourist in Vietnam, your role is to appreciate the people and respect the culture. Do so, and the Vietnamese will continue to open their doors, and minds, to foreign travelers.

Peak season
Vietnam has a varied climate and there is no bad time to book Vietnam airline tickets, unless humidity is a turn-off. In the north of the country the winter months take in November to April, when the weather is cool and wet. The summer months are May to October; weather is hot with heavy rains.
In the south, Vietnam experiences a dry, hot season between December and April and a wet season between May and November. It is most humid between March and May.
In the center of Vietnam, there are often very heavy rains between December and February.

Off Season
Christmas is a family-centric time in Vietnam as is Tet (Lunar New Year) around February.

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