Saigontourist expects to welcome around 80,000 international tourists, mainly from China, coming aboard the cruise vessel SuperStar Aquarius between November and March.
The StarCruises' ship will make 80 trips with tourists from China's Sanya to Ha Long Bay and Da Nang. Chinese nationals can enter Viet Nam with just passports or laissez-passers.
The shipping line will arrange three-day, two-night tours from Sanya to Ha Long Bay and four-day, three-night tours also taking in Da Nang.
Saigontourist will welcome visitors aboard three cruise trips in Ha Long Bay and one in Da Nang every week.
Air Astana launches direct flight from Kazakhstan to HCMC
Kazakhstan's national airline, Air Astana, will open direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City by the end of this year.
The company will operate two flights per week, with a transit stop over at Bangkok in Thailand.
Air Astana currently flies to more than 50 international and domestic destinations such as Bangkok, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Hong Kong, Moscow, Baku, St. Petersburg, London, Istanbul, Frankfurt, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Tashkent, Bishkek, Tbilisi and Samara.
Vietnam's Vietway Aviation will be the authorized representative of Air Astana in the country in sole charge of ticketing, marketing and expanding market share.
Air Astana is a joint venture between Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna (51 percent), and BAE Systems PLC (49 percent). In May 2012, Air Astana proudly marked its 10th anniversary with the prestigious 4-Star rating from Skytrax.
Ambassador boots Viet Nam tourism
Vietnamese ambassador to Israel, Dinh Xuan Luu, spoke about Viet Nam as a tourism destination to some 50 Israeli travel agencies at a seminar held Tel Aviv on July 24.
The travel agencies said they would co-ordinate more closely with the embassy and with their Vietnamese counterparts to promote tourism co-operation.
The seminar was organised by the embassy in collaboration with Maman Aviation Company, Vietnam Airlines, and the Mekong International Tourism and Trading Co Ltd.
Half-built area already an attraction
A half-built national tourism area around the Nui Coc Reservoir in Thai Nguyen Province is already an attraction, according to Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper. Though the 19,000ha project is only scheduled for completion in 2020, what has been built already and the landscapes are worth a day trip from Ha Noi.
The reservoir, built in 1973, has 89 large and small islands along its 17km length, and tourists can visit ones like Co (Stork), De (Goat) and Khi (Monkey) islands.
On some islands, they can enjoy the quiet atmosphere of local villages, or pay a visit to the temple of Mountain Goddess.
Domestic tour prices skyrocket
High hotel rates and airfares have made domestic tours more expensive than tours to neighbouring countries.
On average, a traveller only pays US$50-60 for a room in a five-star hotel in Cambodia and $100-120 in Thailand, but $200 in Viet Nam.
A recent survey by local travel agencies found that only one domestic tour by air is booked for every three to Thailand.
Worried Ha Noi hotels lowered room rates from VND1.4 million ($70) to VND1.2 million a day in the first quarter of this year. Rates at four-star hotels have dropped from VND1 million to 800,000, and at three-star hotels, from VND600,000 to 400,000. Another 4 per cent cut was reported in the rates in the second quarter.
Analysts also blamed the low demand for domestic tours on reasons like high airfares, lack of promotions, lack of transparency in the services provided, and the complicated visa procedures.
Highlands village offers elephant rides
To many visitors to the Central Highlands of Dac Lac, riding an elephant in Don Village is one of the highlights.
Located some 50km north-west of Buon Ma Thuot, the capital of Dac Lac, the village is the only place in the country where it is legal to ride these mighty beasts in the Central Highlands. Don Village, home to the Mo Nong, Gia Rai, Ede, Lao, and Thai ethnic groups, is also the centre of elephant hunting and taming in Viet Nam.
The annual elephant riding festival in Don Village features a number of fun events like racing, elephant football, and wading in water.
Tourists can ride elephants through the forests and rivers to explore splendid scenery after getting some valuable advice from their mahouts.
One can hire an elephant to cross the Serepok River and walk across the 100m long Don Village bamboo bridge under the shade of banyan trees. Tourists are advised to buy sugarcanes or fruit for the animals.