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Vietnam travel firms stop Bangkok tours on safety concerns

Most tourism companies have suspended tours to Bangkok given their deep concerns over the ongoing complicated security situation in the capital city of Thailand, saying they will have to watch movements there in the next few days.

The decision to stop tours to Bangkok was taken as Thai anti-government demonstrators on Monday started blocking important traffic points. However, there are still Vietnamese visitors in the city.

Saigontourist Travel Service Company informed that the last group of the firm’s customers completed their touring program in Bangkok and came back home on Sunday.

Saigontourist offered daily tours to Thailand before but the firm has sent no tours to the Southeast Asian nation as of now.

Saigontourist has yet to confirm when to resume Bangkok tours.

Similar to Saigontourist, other tour operators in HCMC were also watching the situation in Bangkok on Monday. A number of companies have stopped the tours as of the end of this week and they have even suspended selling tours to Thailand for Tet although this is a big business season of tours to Thailand.

“We have halted Thai tours for two weeks and have no plans to sell such tours for Tet because we have no idea how the situation will turn out,” said Phan Dinh Hue, director of Viet Circle Travel.

As of Monday afternoon, multiple tourism enterprises in HCMC told the Daily that they had no visitors touring Bangkok for now and that the tours were being suspended temporarily. In fact, Vietravel with 30 tourists traveling in Bangkok is among few local companies which still had visitors in the city. Vietravel only stopped launching Thai tours last Friday and now it is still offering the tours every day.

“We have contacted our staff members in Bangkok and were told that visitors are touring there as normal. As Thai demonstrators only blocked six main streets in Bangkok, many major sightseeing routes in the city are still in operation as normal,” Nguyen Minh Man, communications director of Vietravel, informed.

In related news, a number of air carriers running the Vietnam-Thailand services said they still carried out flights to Thailand on Monday.

A representative of the low-cost carrier VietJetAir said that on Monday its flights from Vietnam to Thailand still departed as normal. However, the occupancy of the air route showed a decline compared to previous days, said the representative but he refused to give the specific figure.

The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines said operation of its flights remained normal and that it would inform passengers of schedule changes if any.

* The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has asked tourism companies to make thorough check on information of Israel tour buyers to prevent visitors from fleeing and hiding in Israel as reported recently.

As per a document signed by Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy head of VNAT, the authority has received reports from tourism enterprises saying several local package tour buyers had fled from their tours to seek ways to live in Israel illegally.

Cuong therefore requested firms operating tours to Israel to carefully check information of customers before selling the service to them, particularly those in such localities as Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Hai Duong given most tourists running away are from these provinces.

Local firms are demanded to immediately keep competent authorities informed of any suspicious signals seen at visitors in order to stop them from committing the violation in a timely manner. When finding any evidence proving the visitors have plans to take flight, the tour operators must immediately request the host country to report the problem to police to stop the schemes as well as reporting it to the Vietnamese Embassy in Israel besides other relevant authorities.

VNAT also asked tour operators to closely cooperate with their partners in Israel to stringently supervise the activities of visitors in a journey.

This is the first time that VNAT has released a document to cope with runaway visitors taking advantage of tours to other countries. However, the tourism authority declined to elaborate on the specific number of runaway visitors.

As prices of tours to Israel are pretty high, there are not many tourism companies running these tours. Pilgrimage tours have attracted numerous visitors choosing to go to Israel, especially in the period from April to September annually.

Dinh Kim Phuong, director of Carnival Tours, which is known as a leading Israel tour provider, informed that her enterprise was running tours to Israel on a monthly basis. The tour price is around VND48 million a person for a journey lasting for seven to eight days, with its sales growing strongly. However, no visitors of Carnival Tours have run away in Israel up to now, Phuong said.

Carnival Tours has screened customers thoroughly and has refused several suspicious visitors, Phuong noted. With the experiences of arranging tours, the company select visitors based on not only residence areas or ages but also many other elements. Upon any suspicious information detected, the firm will refuse customers even if it already received their registration for visa procedures, she added.

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