HCM CITY (VNS) — Although package tours to China have risen by 40 per cent this year, travel agencies are now seeing many of those tours cancelled because of the tension in the East Sea between China and Viet Nam.
A deputy manager of a HCM City-based travel firm, who wished to be unnamed, said many customers last Friday and Saturday had cancelled their tours to China or had asked for another destination.
Many of them say that they "do not want to travel to China at this time," he added.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted Nguyen Minh Man, deputy director of Vietravel's marketing and communication department, as saying that many customers had changed bookings to destinations like Japan and South Korea.
Some Vietnamese who had decided to visit Hong Kong instead of mainland China were even reluctant to go to the Consulate General of China in HCM City to apply for a visa, Man said.
Tran Van Long, general director of Viet Travel Company, said the number of customers who bought tours to China had dropped significantly during the last several days and were continuing.
Most travel companies that operate outbound tours said that after the incident in which China cut the cable of a Vietnamese vessel in Viet Nam waters two years ago, the number of clients buying tours to China (their key market), fell sharply.
Do Viet Hong, manager of TST Tourist Company, said five groups had cancelled their tours to China in the last several days.
"Many customers are willing to lose their deposits as they no longer want to make such a trip," Hong told Viet Nam News.
"This is not the first time I have seen many cancellations of tours to China. The same situation happened two years ago when there was a sea dispute between China and Viet Nam," she added.
To stimulate demand, airlines that operate flights from Viet Nam's two largest cities, Ha Noi and HCM City, to cities in China, have offered promotions to Vietnamese clients.
Many Chinese partners have also reduced their prices and provided more services to Vietnamese clients as well as support to Vietnamese travel firms, but the number of bookings has not increased.
Tu Quy Thanh, director of Lien Bang Travel Company, said that the number of tours had begun to rise in January.
In the last several days, however, some airlines that operate flights from Viet Nam to China have reported a high number of "no shows" at airport check-ins.
Le Truong Giang, spokesperson of the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, said "the situation would affect the number of customers from HCM City and Ha Noi to cities in China in which Vietnam Airlines operates flights."
Meanwhile, Duong Ngoc Thuy, an agent for Viet Nam Airlines, said that she has not seen any changes in the number of bookings or cancellations of bookings to China.
Some customers, especially businesspeople, were still booking tickets to China, Thuy told Viet Nam News.
The dispute between China and Viet Nam has worsened in recent days as China has illegally set up a drilling oil rig on the continental shelf of Viet Nam, which has raised concerns among countries in the region.