A new trend of traveling known by the industry as “free and easy,” which gives vacationers the freedom to design their own trips, is enjoying a steady growth in Vietnam, according to local travel firms.
“Free and easy” tours don’t include tour guides, giving travelers more freedom to determine their own itineraries
The free and easy (F&E) tours, mostly offered by tourist companies and airlines, often include air tickets, accommodation and airport transfers.
The packages target business travelers, students, experienced travelers and those with foreign language skills who can research their destinations and design their own itineraries.
They allow tourists to have the freedom to choose the attractions they want to visit instead of being subjected to a schedule set by the tour operator and policed by a tour guide.
Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigontourist told Thoi Bao Kinh Te Sai Gon (Saigon Economics Times) the number of bookings for its F&E tours over this year’s summer increased by 150 percent over the same period last year.
Travel firm Fiditour also saw a surge of 30 percent in F&E vacationers in the period over last year’s summer.
Saigontourist, which has been offering the tours since 2000, said F&E tours have only gained popularity during the past two years.
The tours allow tourists to rediscover the attractions they have already visited with their own itineraries designed according to their budget.
Those booking F&E will not have to wait to have enough bookings on the same trip and date to start a tour.
The F&E packages offered by travel firms are often 30 percent cheaper than the combined expenses for those setting up their own tours.
F&E travelers are also provided with insurance and airport transfer services as well as lower airfares and hotel room rates under promotional programs of tourism service providers.
Thanh, a resident in HCMC’s District 4, said she had booked F&E tours to Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia to avoid being bound by fixed schedules set by tourist firms.
Free&Easy, not for everyone
But not all tourists are capable of handling F&E tours as they require the travelers to have knowledge about the destinations as well as foreign languages for those booking outbound tours.
F&E tourists need to learn about the living expenses, transport, and accommodation fees in the destinations prior to the trips. Going in groups will also help cut traveling costs.
There have been cases of F&E tourists ended up paying more than those booking the usual type of package tours which comes with a tour guide, daily meals, and entrance tickets to local attractions.
Future travel trend
Nguyen Ngoc Tu, managing director of travel and air services company Vietway said the firm was confident in the growth of F&E tours to Europe which Vietway had been offering since August this year.
She said F&E would be the future trend for Vietnamese tourists as local travelers like to explore and are becoming increasingly confident when traveling.
Doan Thi Thanh Tra, head of the marketing department of Saigontourist, said the firm offer F&E tours to any destination in the world, as long as there is air route to the attraction.
“It’s much simpler to arrange free & easy tours than the package tours,” she said.
HCMC-based tourist firm Fiditour is also offering F&E tours to 20 destinations around the globe. Most tourists booking F&E tours are young vacationers who travel with friends to shop and explore foreign cultures, according to the company.
National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines in October this year launched new F&E packages for domestic destinations across the country.
The tours, available until December 31 this year, are offered at VND2.2 million (US$123.35) to VND5.9 million ($331) each traveler.