Tuesday, 16 May 2017

VIET NAM: Fake Tourism Or Zero VND Tours A Menace To Tourism

“Zero-VND tours” have re-emerged in tourist attractions in Viet Nam, for examples in Quang Ninh Province, for Chinese travellers. Although free of charge, travel firms earn money from the exorbitant prices tourists are charged at certain shops. The “zero-dong tours” are of poor quality and have a negative impact on tourism. What has been done to curb them?

The Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) and inspectors from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism plan to propose to the Government specific mechanisms to address such violations.

For now, tour operators and owners of 15 stores offering goods for Chinese only will be fined heavily or have their business licences revoked.

In the longer term, we propose improving the Law on Tourism with additional sanctions for tourism mismanagement.

Higher fines are recommended and even criminal charges, depending on the seriousness of the violations.

VNAT will strengthen co-operation with its Chinese counterpart to ensure the rights and benefits of tourists traveling between the two countries.

What do you think about Quang Ninh’s proposed rules for Chinese travelers?

VNAT backs the province in the initiative and will join hands in developing the rules, which stipulate that travel firms must themselves provide the tours they offer and cannot transfer clients to other firms.

A price floor would be set up to avoid unreasonable price reductions, which is also expected to curb unhealthy competition.

Travel firms are encouraged to join a group or club in which they share the same views, visions and together implement measures to fight against poor quality tours.

Travel firms that are not qualified or refuse to join the group have to open a branch in Quang Ninh and fulfill tax obligations.

These suggested rules will be applied in Quang Ninh only. Other localities will have their own specific mechanisms.

Cheap tours, including zero-dong tours, have both negative and positive impacts. What should we do to minimise the negative and promote the positive?

In 2016 alone, 727,000 Chinese visited Quang Ninh Province through inland border gates, paying about VND330 billion (US$ 14.5 million) in visa fees and fares for sightseeing in Ha Long Bay.

The sum did not include revenues from accommodation and transport.

Each year, the province gets about VND900 billion ($39.6 million) to VND1 trillion from tourism that generates stable jobs for 3,000 -3,500 people.

To some extent, cheap tours and even zero-dong tours helped generate revenue. It’s not reasonable to completely ban such tours.

However, the tours need more control. Government bodies must tighten control and inspections at stores which want to overcharge or create difficulties for visitors.

On the other hand, more communication is needed to help visitors reach reliable service providers in the town.

Tax agencies, market watch and tourism agencies need further co-operation in overseeing foreign currency exchanges and international money transfers.

Such moves would help avoid tax loss as well as oversee the price and quality of goods sold to tourists.

Tourists must be informed clearly and fully about their tours. Both Chinese and Vietnamese travel firms must be strictly punished if they are found to collude to cheat tour buyers.

The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism is working with some localities that are popular destinations among Chinese tourists such as Quang Ninh, Danang and Khanh Hoa to cope with travel firms providing poor-quality tours to protect the interests of customers.

The agency also organizes many tourism promotion programs in China. Particularly, from May 11 to 20, the agency will cooperate with several travel firms to introduce Vietnam’s tourism in four Chinese cities, including Nanning, Fuzhou, Nanjing and Hefei.

The number of Chinese tourists to Vietnam has increased rapidly and is forecast to set a new record by the end of this year, with four million visitors, compared to 2.7 million in 2016.

The most popular Vietnamese destinations chosen by Chinese tourists include Hanoi, Halong, and Ninh Binh in the north; Danang, Hoi An, Hue and Nha Trang in the central region; and HCMC and Phu Quoc in the south.

Tour operators have also prepared themselves for the upsurge in Chinese arrivals.

“Last year, the number of Chinese visitors increased by 50% and we expect strong growth this year. Therefore, we have to prepare hotel rooms in advance to ensure better service for the tourist season at the end of 2017,” said Tu Quy Thanh, director of Lien Bang Travel Trading Company Limited (Lien Bang Travelink).

Similarly, Chinese tourists account for 60-70% of total international arrivals catered to by local tour operator Vietravel, and the company usually receives large orders for groups of tourists all year round.