Nearly 350 Russian tourists arrived Sunday in Cam Ranh City on the inaugural flight of an air charter service that connects the south-central Vietnamese locality and Moscow.
The Boeing 767 coded UT 5987 and operated by Azur Air, the airline unit of Turkish tour organizer Anex Tour, departed from the Russian city and landed at Cam Ranh International Airport, located in Khanh Hoa Province, at 8:40 am.
The 336 passengers onboard were warmly welcomed and presented with gifts by representatives of the provincial tourism department upon their arrival.
This was Anex Vietnam’s first charter flight from Moscow to Cam Ranh, which is only 50km away from Nha Trang, home to famously beautiful beaches and a favorite destination for Russian holidaymakers.
Anex Vietnam plans to offer six flights per month, bringing about 2,000 Russian tourists to Nha Trang, and hopes to maintain the service until the end of this year.
The new Moscow-Cam Ranh route was launched at a time when a market leader in organizing Vietnam tour packages for Russian tourists had to suspend their air charter services thanks to the falling number of bookings apparently caused by the ruble crisis.
Anh Duong Co. and its partner, Pegas Touristik, stopped charter flights to the southern resort island of Phu Quoc and Ho Chi Minh City as the services would only make losses.
The two firms offered the last flight to bring a group of tourists visiting Phu Quoc back to Russia on January 21, before suspending the service until the situation improves.
National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines also had to cease its Moscow-Cam Ranh service last month, after 21 months of flying at a loss, according to Khanh Hoa newspaper.
Anex Vietnam said it has to make up for losses incurred from aviation and hotel costs to be able to offer the service.
With many nonstop flights connecting Cam Ranh and Russian cities, Khanh Hoa last year welcomed 270,000 holidaymakers from Russia, more than any other Vietnamese locality, according to the Vietnam News Agency. Russian tourists accounted for 25 percent of the total international arrivals the south-central province received in 2014.
Even though the number of Russian arrivals to Khanh Hoa rose 160 percent compared to 2013, fewer tourists visited the province in the last months of the year due to the troubled Russian economy.
Many direct flights between Khanh Hoa and Russia thus had to be suspended or have their frequency reduced.
The weak ruble is the main reason discouraging Russians from traveling abroad, according to industry insiders.
“Russian tourists are paid in rubles, but have to pay in U.S. dollars for their travel plans,” Nguyen Duc Tan, managing director of Anex Tour Vietnam, told newswire VnExpress.
If a Russian couple had to pay US$800, or 28,000 rubles, for a 12-night stay at a four-star hotel in Vietnam in 2013, they had to pay 49,000 rubles in late December 2014 as the currency had weakened, Tan said.
Russian tourists usually travel by air charter to Cam Ranh International Airport before heading for beautiful resorts and beaches in such tourist hotspots as Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Ninh Thuan.
Vietnam welcomed more than 364,000 Russian tourists in 2014, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.