June 11, 2012 (LBO) - Sri Lanka and Vietnam are planning to boost tourism between the two countries after a visit by Vietnamese travel firms to Colombo which will be followed by a familiarization tour by Sri Lankan travel agents, officials said.
"We would like to promote two-way flows tourism, both to Sri Lanka and to Vietnam," Hanoi's envoy to Colombo Ton Sinh Thanh told a gathering of travel agents.
"We know that Sri Lanka is a very beautiful country. It is worth for Vietnamese tourists to come here."
SaigonTourist, a large leisure services company based in South Vietnam, Hanoi Toserco, a state-run travel service company and FidiTour visited Colombo to meet local tour operators and strike partnerships.
"Vietnam's economy is developing fast and more and more Vietnamese will find new destinations," ambassador Thanh said.
"We hope that you can make use of the presence of leading Vietnamese tour operators here to bring the Vietnamese tourists."
Udaya Silva, Sri Lanka's IATA travel agents association said he expected mutually beneficial partnerships to develop that will allow peoples of both countries increase visits.
A familiarization tour for Sri Lankan travel agents and writers was planned for August.
Ambassador Thanh said Vietnam had 10 UNESCO recognized world heritages, a 4,000 year old history that has left the country with 3,000 national heritage sites including war memorials, ancient temples and 125 beaches.
It also had a rich and varied culture ranging from the people of Sapa in North Vietnam highlands which became snowbound in winter to the hot Mekong Delta in South Vietnam where the weather was like Sri Lanka and people lived in floating villages.
The country also had a wide variety of food and drink. People could travel by aircraft, train, and car or even rent a motorcycle.
Since Vietnam started to open up in 1986 under its free market 'Doi Moi' or 'renewal' program the tourism industry has boomed. The country of 80 million people now had 13,000 hotels with 265,000 rooms.
Foreign investment is flooding into the sector. Sri Lanka's Jetwing group also had a joint venture there.
By 2015 Vietnam expected to have 390,000 rooms and 900,000 rooms by 2010, Thanh said.
Last year Vietnam, which is part of the ASEAN visa free travel area, welcomed 6.0 million tourists. Up to May 2012 Vietnam has received 2.9 million tourists. By 2020 the country was expecting to receive 20 million tourists.
"Tourists can go to Vietnam anytime of the year," Thanh said. "In the South, it is the same as Sri Lanka we have wet and dry seasons. But the north has four seasons; if tourists from Sri Lanka want to enjoy cool weather they can go in the winter."
"We have already brought Vietnam official delegations to Sri Lanka," said Quach Thi My Hoa from Hanoi Toserco, a state-run firm started in 1988.
"Our main outbound markets are Europe, North East Asia, Korea and Japan.
"But after we came here we are very interested in the Sri Lankan market because the attractions and hotels are very good. The food here is also compatible for the Vietnamese people."
Huyn Cong Han, from SaigonTourist Travel Services said Ha Long Bay, a karst mountain formation emerging from the sea was among the most popular destinations, where tourists could spend the night on a junk and visit a cave.
In Danang in Central Vietnam Hoi An and Hue ancient cities, which were world heritage sites could be visited.
"I know Sri Lanka has a lot of beaches but you can also try Vietnamese beaches and see the difference," Han said.