by Tao Jun, Bui Long
HANOI, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- A middle-aged Vietnamese woman is gazing at popups on her laptop featuring outbound tours during Tet, the Lunar New Year festival.
She is one of many who are planning to run away from mundane choirs to exotic destinations.
Many outbound tours, including those to China, during Tet, which falls in mid-February, have been almost fully booked, because more and more Vietnamese visitors prefer international destinations, leading local travel agencies said on Friday.
"Our week-long tour to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou starting on Lunar New Year's Eve (Feb. 15) has only four berths for booking," the Viet Media Travel Corporation told Xinhua on Friday, noting that the tour price is 22 million Vietnamese dong (973 U.S. dollars).
Viet Media Travel is also offering a four-day tour to Beijing departing from Ho Chi Minh City on Feb. 14 (two days before Tet) at a price of 12 million Vietnamese dong (530 U.S. dollars). A similar tour to Beijing, but starting on Feb. 13, has already been fully booked.
"Regarding Beijing, many Vietnamese people, both young and old, like to visit, climb and walk along the Great Wall, witness the traditional architecture and antiques in the Forbidden City and enjoy eating and shopping at Wangfujing," the corporation said.
Tours to China offered by other local travel agencies are also selling like hot cakes. Some agencies even said that if Vietnamese, Chinese and other foreign airlines had more flights to China, they will offer more China-bound tours.
"Depending on the availability of flights to China, we will offer tours to farther destinations in March or April," Gia Linh, a salesperson from the Fiditour Joint Stock Company, told Xinhua on Friday. She added that tours to nearby destinations have already been fully booked.
Vietnam will launch more direct air routes to Chinese cities, including Chongqing, Dalian, Haikou, Wuhan and Ningbo, by 2020, according to a scheme on developing direct air routes between Vietnam and key countries and regions in the world recently approved by the Vietnamese government.
China Eastern Airlines, which operates more than 20 direct routes between China and Vietnam with 60 regular flights a week, currently focuses on routes between Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City and China's Shanghai and Kunming.
There are also regular routes between Vietnam's central Da Nang City and Kunming and Beijing, as well as between Vietnam's capital city Hanoi and Kunming, said the airlines' representative in Vietnam.
Fiditour said it expected a 30-percent rise in the number of bookings for Tet tours, including inbound and outbound ones. To date, the bookings have reached 75 percent of its tours planned for the Lunar New Year.
Another Vietnamese tourism company, Vietravel, said it had sold 65 percent of its outbound tours and 55 percent of domestic tours for Tet.
This year, Vietravel is organizing outbound tours via charter flights from Ho Chi Minh City to China's Ningbo, Thailand's Phuket and Chiang Mai, and Japan's Fukushima.
According to many Vietnamese people, they will opt for tours for the upcoming Tet holiday instead of staying at home as with years past.
"Tet is a great occasion for families to get together and for visiting relatives. But the whole family can spend time together together at a tourist attraction and enjoy exotic landscapes and food there, while avoiding anything humdrum," said Phi Thi Nguyet, who works at the call center of My Dinh Taxi Company in Hanoi.
"With a limited budget, during this Tet, my family can afford a tour to Thailand or Cambodia. If our company offers us a big Tet bonus, we will book a tour to China because we admire the beauty of Chinese architecture and arts," she smiled.
According to statistics from the Vietnam Tourism Association, 6.5 million Vietnamese people toured overseas in 2016, up 15 percent compared to 2015, and spent seven to eight billion U.S. dollars there. Their favorite destinations include China, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
In recent years, long-haul tours to Europe, the United States and Australia have also been luring more and more Vietnamese visitors.