CHANGE OF SEASON

Cheaper prices and different scenery are encouraging more Vietnamese to take a holiday in autumn rather than summer.

By LE DIEM on September 11,2017 10:07 AM

CHANGE OF SEASON

Photo: GOLDEN TOUR

Huong Thao and her family usually take a long holiday once a year, in the summer, to escape from the heat, as do many other people in Vietnam. Islands and beaches are obviously popular destinations, with nice views, cool breezes and clean water. This year, though, they moved their holiday to autumn and chose South Korea.

When autumn arrives, many people in the West head to warmer climes to escape the chill and enjoy some sun, while more and more Vietnamese go looking for what these Westerner want to leave behind. The different beauty of temperate areas during autumn is one of the main reasons the travel habits of Vietnamese have changed in recent years. ‘We want to experience something new,’ Thao explained. ‘In autumn, places like South Korea are covered by trees with yellow and red leaves, which Vietnam doesn’t. It looks so beautiful and is completely different.’

Many other Vietnamese also choose to visit temperate countries during autumn, which was the low season for the outbound market just a few years ago, according to tour operators.

A report forecasting the future of the outbound market in Asia-Pacific from 2016 to 2021 released recently by Mastercard showed that Vietnam will become second in the region in annual growth in outbound tourist numbers, at 9.5% annually, following Myanmar, with 10.6%. It also predicted there would be about 7.5 million Vietnamese travelling abroad in 2021 compared to 4.8 million in 2016.

Outbound customers have actually overwhelmed other segments at many travel companies. For example, they account for 70% of total customers at the Viet Media Travel Corporation, 60% at Fiditours and Naciholidays, and 50-55% at Vietravel and Vietrantour. They are diversified in sex, age, and occupation, but are mostly from 25-55 years of age.

Competitive price is the most appealing feature of outbound packages, particularly in autumn, according to Tuong Lan, Director of Naciholidays. Despite the increasing number of tourists in autumn, it is still regarded as the traditional low season so air tickets are cheaper than in the peak time of public holidays, summer, and Tet (lunar new year). More low-cost airlines in Vietnam has also cut the cost of international travel.

Ngoc Hoa, a 30-year-old fan of travel, said she prefers to travel abroad because the cost of outbound tours is equal to or sometimes even cheaper than domestic tours. ‘A return flight from Hanoi to Taipei is now about VND3.2-4.5 million, which is similar to a flight to Nha Trang or Phu Quoc Island,’ she said. ‘My husband and I could backpack in Taiwan but we don’t speak Chinese so we took a five-day, four-night tour for VND10 million ($440) each. A four-day, four-night trip to Nha Trang or Phu Quoc Island costs VND7 million ($310).’ She also added that Taiwan’s new and easy visa policy is another attraction.

Taiwan relaxed its visa rules in September last year for individual travellers from six ASEAN member countries, including Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, as well as India. Citizens of Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand enjoy visa-free entry to Taiwan. Residents of other ASEAN countries and India who hold permanent residency cards or visas issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Schengen Agreement signatories, the UK, and the US, valid or expired less than ten years before the date of expected date of arrival in Taiwan, are eligible to use the Online Application for R.O.C. (Taiwan) Travel Authorization Certificate and be issued multiple-entry visas valid for three months that allow single stays of up to 30 days. Travel agencies representing tourist groups from the abovementioned countries can file applications after receiving a permit from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s overseas offices. The new policy has helped increase the number of flights from Vietnam to Taiwan since being introduced.

Together with Taiwan, other countries have also opened tourism centres in Vietnam, such as China, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Belgium. Their relaxed visa policies and marketing and promotion activities for tours, which are 20-25% cheaper than three to five years ago, have pushed up demand for outbound travel among Vietnamese, according to Bich Ngoc, Deputy Director of Vietrantour.

Another reason drawing local tourists to international destinations, particularly to faraway places like Northeast Asia, Europe, and North America, is that nearby destinations don’t differ greatly from Vietnam. ‘More and more people travelling abroad encourages others to do likewise,’ Ngoc said. ‘They want to visit new developed destinations and discover the differences and the culture.’

Agreeing, Thao said her family chose South Korea not only for its different look in autumn but also its famous film studio, food, and rich culture. They also plan to visit the US next year to explore the land and people of another continent.

To meet this new demand, travel companies have created diversified options and promotions this autumn.

For example, Vietravel offers free visas for customers booking tours to the US and Canada at least three months prior to departure. Viet Huong, Marketing Director at Vietravel, said the company is on a priority list and can obtain South Korean visas in five days instead of eight. Also receiving price support from its partners, Vietravel’s tours to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Europe are cheaper than before. A five-star night and services are also offered in the new tours to Dubai and Turkey in autumn. Other new autumn tours include shopping combined with healthcare in Malaysia, the ancient capital Ayutthaya in Thailand, and the yellow rice fields of Bali.

Large discounts in autumn are offered to attract more customers. For example, the Viet Media Travel Corporation offers a discount of up to 50% for tours departing in autumn. Tours to old cities in Europe start at VND32.9 million ($1,400) and the US or Canada for VND39.9 million ($1,700) and VND61.9 million ($2,700), respectively. Taiwan, China, Japan and South Korea can be seen for VND500,000-800,000 less. In addition, when buying an outbound group tour, customers also receive an inbound tour, to help them discover more places, according to Viet Media. Vietrantour, meanwhile, cuts its prices by VND5 million ($220) in its ‘Watching Autumn All Over the World’ program. Visiting Osaka and Mt Fuji and attending the Kawaguchiko Autumn Leaves Festival in Japan costs just VND31.9 million ($1,400) for six days, while you can contemplate the beautiful ‘golden autumn’, as seen in the famous painting by Isaac Levitan, in Moscow - Suzdal (Vladimir Oblast) - St Petersburg over the course of nine days for VND49.9 million ($2,200).

CHANGE OF SEASON

Each year, Naciholidays develops three to five new outbound tours. This autumn, together with existing tours like Russian autumn, yellow and red leaf season in South Korea, Japan and China, and the purple flamboyant season in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, it also focuses on Latin America, with packages such as US - Mexico - Cuba, Canada - Cuba, Peru - Argentina - Brazil, and Brazil - Peru - Chile. ‘Travel demand among Vietnamese is increasing and we focus on these targeted customers,’ Lan said. ‘We don’t pursue more destinations but focus on quality.’

‘Never before has travel been so easy as at the moment,’ Hoa said. ‘There are so many attractive tour packages available to new and faraway destinations. I just need to save my money.’

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