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Overseas travellers ignore economic downturn   2012-07-16 - VNS

Outbound tourism remains in good health, with millions travelling out of the country each year despite the protracted economic woes.

The HCM City Culture, Sport and Tourism Department said last year some 470,000 people visited Cambodia while 500,000 each went to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

Around 215,000 tourists chose to travel with the city's top 10 travel firms, it said.

Viet Nam, especially HCM City, had become key markets for many countries in the region, it added.

Vu The Binh, head of the Viet Nam Society of Travel Agents (VISTA), was quoted as saying by the Sai Gon Economic Times that tour operators have enough customers for airlines even if they double the number of flights to Malaysia and Singapore.

State-owned Vietravel said it had 700,000 customers for its outbound tours last year, year-on-year up by 25 per cent.

Nguyen Minh Man, deputy director of Vietravel's marketing and communication department, said: "Our tours to Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia continued to develop at a stable rate. The number of visitors to the US, Japan, South Korea and Egypt doubled last year."

According to VISTA figures, there are around 1,000 travel agents in the country now, with 70 per cent of them offering outbound tours.

The business was worth VND658 billion (US$31 million) Saigontourist and VND1.4 trillion ($66 million) to Vietravel, the two biggest players.

Insiders are confident it would continue to grow this year despite the continuing economic problems, explaining it is due to cheap prices and good service.

While foreign companies organised a slew of promotions, prices of domestic tours were very high, analysts said.

A senior Vietravel official said that was why fewer people chose domestic travel, pointing out that HCM City tours to Cambodia and Vung Tau cost the same.

Tour operators also blamed the lack of close co-operation among the transport and hospitality industries and the Government in Viet Nam that enables foreign countries to offer cheap tours.

Binh said that without co-ordinated top-down management, Vietnamese tourism can not offer cheap prices or high quality.

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