Last week, Viet Nam News asked for readers' thoughts after the National Administration of Tourism announced plans to name and shame tourism destinations providing poor service. We received both comments and complaints from readers - here are the best of them.
Brett Palser, Australian, HCM City
I think to ‘Name and Shame' destinations attracting lots of complaints is not really addressing the problem and could only do harm to businesses in the area providing good service as they will be lumped in with those that don't.
Perhaps it would be better to set up some kind of assistance for those that have had numerous complaints, or look at identifying those service providers that do a great job or receive compliments for their service so tourists can easily identify them.
Gary Burgess, tourist
Viet Nam needs a government supported education scheme to not only train staff for tourism but also teach locals foreign language skills.
I believe the National Administration of Tourism should employ overseas consultants specialising in tourism and hotels to help improve some aspects of service.
The main problem I see visiting Viet Nam many times is the language barrier, not the actual service.
Vietnamese hospitality workers in outer districts work really hard for 14-16 hours per day for only VND2-4 million (US$94-188) per month.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
In a perfect world, Viet Nam would be in the top ten. Reality paints a different, dirtier picture. Service quality is poor to non-existent. You almost never receive a receipt, warranty, or authentic product.
Name and shame, but also praise and promote. If you inspect and fine one location, make sure to give a reward, bonus or seal of approval to a legitimate place. There is no reason why this idea will not work.
Publish regular lists to showcase approved locations - no tea money required. Standardise visa renewal costs; ensure safe transport via bus, taxi and train. Where is my English-speaking complaints phone number?
My first bus ride was scary with lots of broken things taped and wired together. My last taxi to the Sai Gon airport took me to the wrong terminal. The driver tried to get me to pay extra for a ‘ticket.'
Dirty tables are met with even dirtier cloths for wiping. Lost my appetite. Leaving a tip? Coming back? No way!
Send a delegate group to Bangkok and Phuket. The Thai capital regularly wins awards, while Phuket is biting the hand that feeds it. Better yet, contact me directly. I can keep the inspectors busy. I will take them to sleeping retail staff, shrugging their shoulders saying ‘no have' and ‘sold out.'
John MacDonald, Australian, Ha Noi
Viet Nam is such a long and narrow country it is in danger of being over exposed to tourists. Already, many of its coastal attractions have been developed to the point where they look the same as coastal resorts throughout the world – and are not a great deal cheaper.
And in the name of attracting more tourist dollars, once pristine islands from north to south are having their environment "improved" or "protected" – developers' terms for doing exactly what they want to with a minimum of interference.
The peaceful island of Co To in the most remarkable, untouched, unvisited part of Ha Long Bay, will be the next victim of this special attention.
In a few years time, there is likely to be nothing left in Viet Nam in its original state – and the few remaining elephants are likely to be fenced in to stop them being so bothersome.
As for the lowland (Kinh) festivals, as one tourist said: "You've seen one, you've seen them all." It's as if all the participants are dressed by central casting out of the same boxes – the same long blue, yellow, red and green robes with ugly casual shoes poking from underneath.
Indeed, one wonders just how authentic many of the festivals are. The parades and dances seem choreographed and the participants often look bewildered. Many events are saved by the dignity of a few elders who get really involved in the ancient traditions – such as gathering water from midstream at the Bat Trang pottery village to offer at the central community hall.
The other saving feature of many festivals are the magnificent pagodas, temples and dinh (community halls) that have survived or been refurbished. But here again, the proliferation of gigantic, poorly-designed plaster or plastic deities is getting out of hand.
One would hope some of the ancient dinh, which were first recorded in the first century AD, again become available as traditional stopovers for visitors. Many tourists would enjoy sleeping on a straw mat and pillow and listening to the haunting sounds of some local vocalists.
John Boag, American, HCM City
The concept of playing the shame game is a slippery slope fraught with perils of tragedy for those named. The market place, with its public opinion through word of mouth, is the best judge. Allow the free market rule except in cases of health dangers through unsafe food and infested premises.
Charlie White, Australian, HCM City
Early this week, I travelled by bus from HCM City to Phnom Penh. Departing Viet Nam at the border took over an hour. We arrived at the town in Cambodia where one has to take the ferry to cross the river at 2.45pm. The bus was not allowed on the ferry until 7.30pm.
The whole trip from HCM City to Phnom Penh took eleven hours when I have done the trip by bus in five hours. Such disorganisation does not encourage tourism. — VNS