Soaring airfares keep beach hotels half empty during peak travel season

By Hoai Anh   July 1, 2024 | 10:35 pm PT
Steep airfares are keeping visitors away from beach hotels in central Vietnam, and room occupancy rates are only 50-60% in what is the peak summer travel season.

A survey done on June 22 by Mustgo, a booking platform with over 2,000 hotel partners around the country, found that most tourist destinations are experiencing moderate to fair room occupancy levels.

Places like Vung Tau and Phan Thiet near the central coast are nearly fully booked only on weekends.

In Vung Tau, occupancy rates during the week are 30-40% for three- and four-star hotels and 25-30% for five-star properties, half of last year's figures.

Similarly, Phan Thiet sees 40-50% bookings during weekdays.

Bãi biển Thương Chánh ở thành phố Phan Thiết chiều 29/4. Ảnh: Việt Quốc

A crowded beach in Phan Thiet in Vietnam's central coast in April 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

Tran Quoc Hung, head of product development at Mustgo, said there has been a notable decrease in room occupancy in HCMC's vicinity.

At this time last year Vung Tau's room occupancy rate was 50-60% on weekdays while weekends were sold out two weeks in advance.

With the new Nha Trang expressway completed in 2024, he said some travelers might be going there for a change of scene while others opt for reasonably priced international tours.

Da Lat hotels are also full during weekends but have only 60% occupancy during weekdays, particularly in the three- to five-star range.

Quy Nhon sees an overall occupancy rate of over 50% at four- and five-star hotels, but many rooms were vacant in June.

Three-star properties enjoyed over 60% occupancy due to their limited room number.

Faced with the weak weekday demand, hotels often offer discounts or room upgrades.

Some have paused bookings to accommodate large groups in July though many rooms remain unoccupied.

Nguyen Hoang Hai Phuong, owner of the Hai Phuong Hotel in Quy Nhon, said while patronage from HCMC, Gia Lai and Mekong Delta provinces has remained stable, there has been a noticeable absence of guests from the north due to high airfares.

The latter's number has decreased by around 70% from a year ago, he said.

His observation is that now most guests travel by private car or train and fewer by plane, he said.

In Nha Trang, both international and local four- to five-star beachfront hotels only have a 50-60% occupancy rate in June and July.

In Cam Ranh, some local five-star resorts have 70-90% occupancy, and their international counterparts, around 60%.

Local tourism businesses blame the shortage of northern guests on high airfares.

Mustgo said Quy Nhon and Nha Trang are popular among northern visitors in summer. Last year both cities had 70% occupancy rates, occasionally reaching full capacity.

In central Vietnam, Da Nang remains a top destination, especially with the addition of a fireworks festival every weekend in June.

Beachfront four- and five-star hotels maintain over 70% room occupancy, and central three-star properties report similar figures.

Mustgo said hotels offering views of the fireworks are nearly sold out.

Bãi biển Mỹ Khê, Đà Nẵng vào tháng 5/2023. Ảnh: Nguyễn Đông

My Khe beach in Da Nang, May 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

In Phu Quoc, four- and five-star hotels have an average occupancy rate of only 50% this summer. In June many rooms were unoccupied, prompting hotels to allow free sales by travel agencies.

But in July occupancy rates improved somewhat with centrally located three- and four-star hotels reaching over 60%.

Hung said though summer is the peak travel season, cities and provinces dependent on air travel are rarely achieving full bookings.

Both individual travelers and groups are carefully weighing costs and ultimately preferring nearby destinations.

Thus, northern tourists are opting for places such as Sa Pa, Quang Ninh and Quang Binh.

Mustgo said weekend occupancy rates at three- to five-star properties this summer in Sa Pa are 60-70%.

Some five-star resorts report full occupancy during weekends.

In Quang Ninh, home to Ha Long Bay, four- and five-star hotels achieved an average of 80-90% occupancy rates in June, including 100% during weekends and 30-50% during weekdays.

Pham Anh Vu, marketing director at Vietnam Tourism, said destinations other than Da Nang that rely on people coming by air, especially Phu Quoc, have experienced a decline in popularity among northern guests, mainly due to the high transport costs.

Conversely, destinations such as Sa Pa, Moc Chau, Ha Long, and Thanh Hoa reported high booking rates, with some even seeing a sharp rise in demand.

Many people are opting to travel on weekdays to avoid high costs and crowds.

Mustgo expects a slight increase in hotel occupancy rates nationwide during the peak travel period in July.

But many prospective tourists wait for affordable and promotional airfares, options that are currently limited.

Coastal destinations accessible by road are expected to remain popular in the coming months.

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