After Japan fully reopened its door to international tourists, Taiwan, a favorite destination for Vietnamese travelers, also began welcoming international tourists on October 13, paving the way for an exciting autumn and winter travel season.
According to local tour operators and travel firms, the number of outbound tours slated for the rest of the year is on the rise, with applications for tourist visas also skyrocketing.
To meet rising demands, many Vietnamese tour operators have launched new outbound tours for upcoming public holidays.
Places open up to international travelers
Aside from its full reopening, Taiwan is set to reinstate its simplified visa policy, according to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vietnam.
Tourists from around the world can enter Taiwan with a visa on arrival, an e-visa, or an online visa approval letter, which is required for tourists from Southeast Asia.
Vietnamese citizens holding an American, Canadian, Japanese, South Korean, British, Australian, New Zealand, or Schengen visa may enjoy visa-free entry into Taiwan for 14 days.
Tu Quy Thanh, general director of Lien Bang Travelink, said that Taiwan’s visa waiver policy had been applied since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Taiwan’s visa waiver policy for travel firms which bring group tours to the island has yet to be reinstated, but its relaxed entry requirements make life easier for Vietnamese visitors,” said Thanh.
Over the past few days, Lien Bang Travelink has seen the number of customers applying for visas for Japan skyrocketing, with the majority intending to either backpack or visit relatives in the East Asian country.
There has also been an increase in the number of companies applying for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) tours.
|A photo shows customers considering discounted tours at the 2022 Ho Chi Minh City Travel Expo. Photo: Huu Hanh / Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Nguyet Van Khanh, marketing director at Vietravel, shared the company has received over 1,700 bookings to South Korea and Japan since launching its promotional autumn-winter tour program.
These tours were scheduled for early September to late November, and more than 30 percent of these bookings are for travel to South Korea.
Complicated visa procedures
Though many countries have loosened their entry restrictions, some regulations are not perfectly straightforward.
Japan, for example, has reopened its doors to independent tourists, though visas must be issued by visa firms authorized by Consulates General of Japan rather than directly through any consulate.
These requirements have helped shorten the visa application process from seven to ten days down to five days.
All that is needed to apply are a photo, a valid passport, and a bank balance confirmation paper.
Securing a South Korean visa is a bit more difficult.
According to Thanh, would-be visitors to South Korea show proof of financial health, including an original bank savings book and a pay stub, as well as a social insurance book.
These strict requirements are a major discouragement for Vietnamese travelers.
“Many guests booked tours to South Korea, but then changed their mind and chose different destinations after seeing the list of procedures and documents required for a visa application,” said Thanh.
Taking advantage of the rising numbers of Vietnamese tourists hoping to travel abroad, many travel firms are intentionally cheating clients by allowing them to sign up for tours to countries to which they are likely not eligible for visas, thus causing them to lose non-refundable deposits.
Tet tours on sale
Since mid-October, many tour operators have begun advertising Tet (Lunar New Year) tours, as well as promotional packages and discounts, in order to meet the high demand for travel during the holiday, which falls in January next year.
According to Tran Quoc Bao, deputy general director of Saigontourist, the travel firm began preparing new tourism services and products in September, as well as bolstering its staffing, in order to prepare for over 300 Tet tours.
|Passengers are seen at an airport in Vietnam. Photo: C.Trung / Tuoi Tre
The firm is expected to serve 20,000 tourists on outbound tours during this year’s Tet holiday.
Similarly, Vietravel has begun advertising several tours scheduled for the holiday and will offer dozens of promotional packages to consumers, according to Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of the travel firm.
“The full reopening of many countries will help tourism, mainly the outbound segment, boom this year,” Hoang said.
South Korea and Japan remain attractive despite high prices
Thi Quoc Duy from Benthanh Tourist said that travel firms are mainly offering six-day, five-night tours to Japan at prices ranging from VND39 million (US$1,566) to VND54 million ($2,171).
“These tours are more expensive than what we offered before the pandemic, but the demand is surging,” Duy said.
Meanwhile, tourists have more options of tours to South Korea, including weekly visa-free tours to Nami Island.
Full-package tours to the island which cover airfare and hotel costs are priced at VND12-19 million ($483-764) each and are set to depart on Saturdays in October and November.
The tourism administrations of many countries are collaborating with Vietnamese tour operators to launch promotional programs, such as presenting gifts and vouchers to attract Vietnamese travelers.
Airlines fill their schedules
Local airlines are rushing to raise their flight frequencies and open new international air routes to meet the high demand for travel during the autumn-winter travel season.
Quynh Vy, a Vietnamese student in Japan, said she was shocked at the current low airfares for international flights and increased options of flights compared to three or four months ago.
“I bought two round-trip tickets in June to fly back to Vietnam from Osaka in August for VND12.5 million [$503], but now, the price is halved,” Vy recounted.
Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, Bamboo Airways, and Vietravel Airlines have been ratcheting up flight frequency and opening new international air routes over the past several months.
According to Vietjet, from October 10 to 12, the carrier released 1.1 million tickets priced from VND1,010 ($0.04) before taxes and fees, for international flights on routes connecting Vietnam with India, Kazakhstan, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Tourists can plan to travel to Northeast Asian countries for the rest of the year at discounted air ticket prices after a two-year halt due to the pandemic, said the airline.
A survey showed that the prices of tickets set by Vietnamese and international airlines for flights from Vietnam to Japan and South Korea among other attractive tourist sites are highly competitive.
Airfares for flights to Japan between mid-October and November tumbled against the pre-pandemic prices, at just VND3.7-5 million ($149-201) each.
Airfares for flights to South Korea are seen as cheaper.
For example, Vietjet quotes the ticket price of VND2 million ($80.5), while the airfare for a Vietnam Airlines flight to South Korea stands at VND2.4-3 million ($97-121).
Meanwhile, South Korea’s newly established airline, Air Premia, sets ticket prices for its Ho Chi Minh City-Seoul route at VND2.4-3 million ($100-120) each.
Many travel companies forecast that these promotions will pay off by the end of 2023 if international arrivals from the United States and Europe surge while China fully reopens its door and airfares fall.
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