Many travel companies have reported cancellations by Japanese visitors, Vu The Binh, chairman of Vietnam Travel Association, told the German Press Agency dpa.

'It is obvious the earthquake and tsunami in Japan have directly affected Vietnam,' he said.

'We do not have exact numbers of cancelled tours but a lot of travel companies have said many Japanese visitors have cancelled their tours here.'

One of Vietnam's biggest tour companies, Saigontourist, just called off three tours to Japan scheduled for the end of March and early April for the cherry blossom festival, marketing manager at the firm, Thanh Tra, said.

The tours were booked by around 100 Vietnamese tourists for 2,500 dollars each.

The company offers at least one group trip to Japan a month, making up about 10 per cent of total tours per year.

'At the moment we have cancelled tours. We will look at what's going on before we decide on our options. Customer safety is our priority,' she said.

The impact on flag carrier Vietnam Airlines was also 'very serious,' a spokesman for the company said.

'Japan is our most important market abroad. We are taking time to estimate the impact on volume and revenue and considering response action,' he said.

The lack of confidence was reflected in the stock market earlier in the week when shares for resort owners Vinpearl Joint-Stock Co fell 5 per cent after newspaper Thoi Bao Kinh Te said the number of tourists from Japan may fall by about a third this year.

Japan is Vietnam's third-biggest source of tourists after China and South Korea. Nearly 450,000 Japanese tourists came to Vietnam last year.

The Japanese are considered high-income travellers with a high spending level.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - march 2011