Sunday, 22/10/2023 09:51

Ambitious tour operator sets new standards in travel

INTREPID: Hoàng Phụng Hiếu waves a Vietnamese flag in his first trip to the South Pole. Photo courtesy of Hiếu

Inner Sanctum: How many tours does your company operate?

Speaking of tours and trekking routes, it's going to be endless. The sky's the limit. When I started working in tourism in 2006, I started with domestic tours, then expanded to Southeast Asia, then to Europe, North America and Australia, and basic tours in Africa. I could see so many routes possible. But since I started operating special tours in 2017 until now, I have seen so many more routes. I see huge potential. 

In Việt Nam, we're still content with some of the traditional ways of travel. During the two years of the pandemic, we had time to do research, and we found out that the possibilities were endless. This was a wake-up call for me.

You know that there are more than 200 countries and territories in the world, but as far as I know, there's only one young couple, who has done 125 countries.

Another traveller, who uses only his Vietnamese passport when travelling, could do 145 - 165 countries. There's no Vietnamese, that I know of, has been to all countries and territories. But in the world, there are people who have conquered every country. 

So if we speak about routes and destinations, we have a book to keep all our tours and our goal is to craft tours to all 200 countries. We have covered half of this, and still have a long way to go. We need to consider safety, of course. Furthermore, we used to have tours to Ukraine, but now it's very difficult.

Now we have many tours that if a traveller wants to go on a tour for a month, he or she can constantly travel for the next 20 to 30 years. We have some products, crafted in my generation, but it may take another generation to conquer this dream.

STUNNING: The glaciers in the South Pole are home to penguins roaming freely on their land. Such destinations hold a strong appeal for intrepid travellers. Photo by Lê Sĩ Nam

 Inner Sanctum: What is the means of travel?

I'd also like to draw your attention to many types of tourism: by air, by road, by train. The trans-Siberia train you probably have heard of. Or the Ghan train, crossing north and south Australia. Last year we had a team of Vietnamese travellers who did this. In America or Africa, there are train tracks like that. You can also travel on the river, such as by the Mississippi in the United States, or other rivers in Europe, like the Seine, the Danube, the Rhine, or the Volga. 

Then we have cruise tours, with big ships of 4-5,000 people on them. This type of tourism has not developed in Việt Nam. We do have big ships in our ports, but tour companies have not had many cruise travellers.

Furthermore, if we talk about South and North Pole trips, they are exploration travels, with ships of only 200 people, much smaller than the big ship voyagers. When you reach a destination, travellers get on rubber boats to explore further in rivers or bays. 

This type of tourism has become a common trend in the world. There are between 20-30 shipping companies that operate this type of travel. It can be top-notch, depending on price, of course. It's much more expensive than the big ship cruises. But this type of travel steers travellers towards pure nature.

When you feel saturated with mass travel, you might be happy to travel to a nature-only destination, where you see the purity of nature. It's really wonderful, and you can listen to the scientists or biologists talking about the wonder of the natural world, and you'll be more conscious about the need to preserve what we have. It may even inspire you to act accordingly to preserve nature, such as by turning off a bulb, or to classify waste, reuse and recycle. 

Inner Sanctum: You've been to so many countries, do you still want to travel?

There's another type of rare travel, that has not been common in Việt Nam. Let's call it a conquering type of tour, where you conquer the North or South Pole. I know that no one holding a Vietnamese passport has conquered both poles. That type of tour, grows beyond the usual sense of the word travel. It's going to be historical to be the first person with a Vietnamese passport to place our country's flag in the pole. 

Now there are round-the-globe tours, that take up 100 days. The toughest tour that I know of takes 172 days to complete, with costs ranging from VNĐ5 billion to 25 billion per person. This type of tour is not for everyone, and even if few people can afford it, it takes time to get them used to the idea. Last year, we took three travellers to explore the South of Georgia at nearly VNĐ1 billion per person. 

Over time, I hope we'll get there. I've had talks with some of my world trotter friends, and we all wish one day a Vietnamese can set his or her foot on the Moon. You can say I'm crazy or nuts. But we all have our dreams. It's my dream. If other countries can do it, then our country can do it, and our people can do it. VNS

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