Vietnamese travel firms suspend tours to Israel amid escalating conflict

By Phuong Anh   October 10, 2023 | 11:35 pm PT
Vietnamese travel firms suspend tours to Israel amid escalating conflict
People react near a fire after rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, Israel October 7, 2023. Photo by Reuters
Tour operators have said they were forced to cancel or postpone tours to Israel following violent attacks by the Hamas militant group, leaving them in dire straits.

Huynh Phan Phuong Hoang, deputy general director of leading tour operator Vietravel, said her company has many groups of tourists to Israel from now until the year end, but they will all be canceled to ensure safety for tourists.

Nguyen Nhat Vu, CEO of Fit Tour International Travel Company in Ho Chi Minh City, said the earthquake that shook Morocco in early September forced his company to postpone a tour that was initially scheduled to depart on November 17.

After many days of negotiation, the group agreed to switch to a Jordan-Israel-Egypt tour. However, the surprising attack by Hamas on Israel left him in difficulty again.

"It's an extreme headache issue for me at this time," Vu said, adding that his company planned to take a total of eight tour groups to Israel from now until the year-end with each tour costing VND80-130 million (US$3,289-5,345) per person.

In addition, his company had completed visa procedures for tour groups as well as paid deposits to its partner in Israel.

Tours to the Middle East region last 12 to 15 days and each tour consists of 10-19 people but the escalating conflict in the Middle East has left him not knowing what to do.

For the past three days, Vu's phone has been busy continuously as he had to call the partner company in Israel and answer customers about the tour situation.

"We will have to remove all destinations in Israel from the itinerary to ensure the safety of our tourists," Vu said.

His customers are mainly from 40 to 55 years old, and want to visit Middle Eastern countries like Israel to explore the culture and history.

Some agreed to continue the tour, accepting to skip Israel while the remaining guests want the tour to be postponed to wait for a "more suitable time."

Hamas militants have fired nearly 3,000 rockets on Israel's territory, and made surprise attacks in border areas since early October 7.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel was "at war" after Hamas's surprise attack.

The escalating conflict between the two sides has left more than 1,900 people dead and about 7,000 injured as of October 10, prompting many countries to prepare evacuation of their citizens from Israel.

Hoang Phung Hieu, director of Viet Global Travel company in Hanoi, said that the war in Israel has caused his company "to suffer damage."

Hieu said his company planned to take a group of 20 tourists to Israel on November 1 and airfares as well as 50% of food and accommodation deposits for tourists to stay at 4–5-star hotels in Israel have been paid with total expenses amounting to billions of dong.

Hieu's company is working with relevant parties, including airlines, to pay refunds or to ensure no additional fees will be charged if flight dates are postponed to minimize damage to passengers.

In 2022, Israel received 2.6 million international visitors, including 2,300 Vietnamese visitors, according to Statista.

When the war broke out, many tourists in Israel rushed to book flights home.

Many major airlines around the world immediately canceled flights to Israel.

Foreign ministries of many countries around the world also issued warnings against traveling to Israel at this time.

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