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Central bottleneck

Lack of international flights into the central region is bogging up tourism development, incurring heavy financial losses.

Tourism in Vietnam’s central region is suffering losses of around US$72 million a year due to a lack of direct air routes connecting to international access points, according to a recent report submitted by a conglomerate of 17 tourist companies, tourism management agencies and airliners.

The report, titled “Vietnam’s central region, a link with the rest of the world,” attributes losses to low occupancy rates at the region’s major beach resorts.

Its findings reported that last year’s occupancy rates at seven resorts in Da Nang City and Quang Nam Province – Furama, Palm Garden, Swiss-Belhotel Golden Sand, Riverside, Victoria Beach, Life, and The Nam Hai – ranged from a high of 76 percent to a low of 41 percent.

Due to the shortage of customers, these resorts lose an estimated combined total of around $198,000 a day, or $72.27 million per year.

Da Nang City hosts few direct flights from abroad, while Vietnam’s flagship airline – Vietnam Airlines – has not introduced convenient transfer services to the central region from the northern capital of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City’s southern hub.

For example, most international flights arrive in Hanoi and HCMC in the evening and passengers are reluctant to transfer to Da Nang City via a night flight.

If waiting to take a connecting flight the next morning or afternoon, the hassle of the long layover deters tourists from making the journey.

Additionally, booking domestic tickets for international tourists on major holidays is a difficult affair as flights tend to fill up quickly with traveling locals.

Of the more than 3.5 million international tourists to Vietnam in 2006, only 250,000 (7.2 percent) and 800,000 (22.3 percent) visited Da Nang City and Quang Nam Province respectively.

In 2007, 4.2 million tourists visited the country but only 315,000 (7.5 percent) and 1 million (23.9 percent) of these visitors ventured to those two places, according to the report.

Opening up

The Ministry of Transport and the Central Airport Authority late last year began the construction of Da Nang City’s international airport terminal with a capacity to receive four million passengers a year.

Work is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2010.

Currently, Vietnam Airlines offers four to five daily direct flights from HCMC to Da Nang City and four from Hanoi to Da Nang.

Tour operators in the central region have proposed that Vietnam Airlines run one more weekly flight from HCMC and Hanoi to Da Nang and open new routes from Da Nang to Singapore (two flights a week), Hong Kong/Macau (four a week), and Seoul, Tokyo/Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, and Australia (three a week for each destination).

Singapore’s Silk Air now operates five weekly flights from Singapore to Da Nang and Angkor Wat, with a seat occupancy rate of 80 percent a flight, and is planning to raise the number to seven flights per week.

In July this year, South Korea’s Asiana Airlines will also open a route to Da Nang with two flights per week.

Local tourism companies say that if the planned routes are realized, Da Nang City will receive 4,536 visitors a week.

If a person stays there for three days and spends an average of $220 a day, the central city will gain nearly $3 million a week.

Stakeholders of the report believe that with improved infrastructure, an attractive natural environment and luxury resorts, Da Nang City and other localities in the central region have great potential to attract tourism upon enhancing air transportation access.

Reported by Dang Ngoc Khoa

source: thanhninennews

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