Vietnam welcomed 4.3 million international visitors in the first nine months of this year, a surge of 15.5 percent compared to the same period last year.

According to the General Statistics Office, almost all foreign sources of Vietnamese tourism saw year-on-year increases during the perio. Visitors from China rose by a huge 45 percent to 980,000, South Koreans by 4 percent to 380,000 and Japanese by 8.2 percent to 340,000. Other sources such as Taiwan , the United States and France also recorded positive growths.

Vietnam hopes that good promotions will attract 5.5 million international tourists by the year's end, 500,000 more than last year, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).

As one such effort, VNAT last week arranged for 55 domestic tourism companies to participate in "Vietnamese Cultural Days in Russia ".

" Vietnam 's tourism sector is always willing to offer the best services and products to Russian tourists," said head of VNAT Nguyen Anh Tuan.

Tuan was speaking on the sidelines of a conference to publicise Vietnam 's tourism potential in Saint Petersburg as part of "The Vietnamese Cultural Days in Russia ".

Tuan called on the two countries' airlines and travel agencies to co-operate in offering new tourism products, helping the two peoples explore destinations in each country.

Vietnam is regaining special attention from Russian visitors, thanks to its warmer climate, long coastline, friendly people and low-priced services, said Chairman of the Saint Petersburg 's Committee for Investment and Strategic Projects, Aleksei Trichkanov.

He proposed that the two sides open a direct air-route from Vietnam to Saint Petersburg , saying that it would increase travel to both countries.

Last year, Vietnam welcomed almost 83,000 Russian visitors, up 50 percent over 2009. This year, as many as 120,000 Russian tourists are expected to come to visit./.