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European debt woes rattle travel firms

Local travel firms are keeping a close watch on what is happening in a crisis-hit Europe with concerns that their huge inbound market may be affected in the coming time though arrivals from Europe have yet to decline.

European tourists visit the Reunifi cation Palace in HCMC’s District 1. 

For most travel firms providing international tourism services, Europe is always a top market due to a large number of tourists and their high spending. According to statistics of HCMC-based firms, European tourist arrivals have increased in the early months of this year.

“We have not seen any drop so far, but the situation in the upcoming months is unpredictable as we are serving groups of tourists under the contracts signed six months to one year ago,” said Ung Phuong Dung, director of Indochina Services Travel Group.

The situation is the same in Ben Thanh Tourist, Saigontourist and Asian Trails. Saigontourist in the first months recorded strong growth in European tourist arrivals in Vietnam on board cruise ships and even signed new contracts to serve tourists from Europe, the firm’s most important market.

“With contracts valid until April, we will welcome cruise ships from Europe every week, with up to three ships in the busiest week,” said Doan Thi Thanh Tra, marketing director of Saigontourist.

According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the number of tourists from large markets in Europe such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany has still maintained growth. However, travel firms have prepared for the worst as the people there cut spending to cope with the debt woes.

Bui Viet Thuy Tien, managing director of Asian Trails, said that it was too soon to say that the European crisis would lead the number of visitors to Vietnam to dip. However, the firm has started to exploit new markets such as South America and Asia to compensate for a possible fall in European arrivals.

Meanwhile, Saigontourist will make a detailed evaluation regarding the markets of this year after working with partners in European countries next month. The firm has also mapped out ways to develop its sales network to tap the European market, including boosting online bookings to offer better prices for customers and attracting them to buy seat-in-coach tours.

“Currently, we have offered seat-in-coach tours every day, not only in HCMC but also nationwide. The number of customers buying tours online has increased by 15-20%,” said Tra from Saigontourist.


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