by Luu Van Dat
The public is keen to find out who will succeed Viet Nam's long-legged tourism ambassador, Ly Nha Ky, next year. Five women have already applied for the position, a fact that certainly has not escaped the attention of the local media, which has a passion for beauties.
It maybe helpful for the tourism sector to have a leggy woman travelling around the world and waving to people. During former tourism ambassador Ly Nha Ky's term, the number of foreign tourists to Viet Nam increased by 800,000, from 6 million in 2011 to 6.8 million in 2012.
But can this all be put down to the efforts of a sexy tourism ambassador? At least 10 foreign tourists asked in HCM City recently if they knew Ky pleaded ignorance.
Katsuya Yamamoto, a Japanese tourist said he did not know Ly Nha Ky or even know that Viet Nam had a tourism ambassador. He said he sought information about Viet Nam and its culture through the internet. Others said they remembered it from the war.
I would argue that a slender beautiful woman cannot promote a country's tourism industry. It's difficult to assess how much this type of person actually contributes to the non-smoke industry.
I suggest that the Government should do something more sustainable and practical by encouraging all citizens to become tourism ambassadors. Only kindness and hospitality from local people can promote the image of Viet Nam and make tourists return.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and other local agencies should educate people on how to protect beautiful sites from pollution and being excellent hosts.
In India, a country recently stain by horrific crimes against women, I feel comfortable with the hospitality of citizens. They helped me take pictures, asked me if I felt at home and offered much support.
When I sat on a train to Shimla, an old summer capital in British India, people waved to us along the way. That really warmed the hearts of foreign tourists. Several times, when I lost the way, friendly locals showed me the right direction.
Of course, one beautiful woman cannot do that on behalf of the entire people. Only the awareness of the whole people can attract more foreign people come and make them return next time.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak recently called on every citizen to actively promote the tourism industry. He said every driver, waiter, tour guide and hotel owner had the responsibility of promoting Malaysia's image and making tourists feel welcome.
According to Mohd Akbal Setia, director of Tourism Malaysia in Viet Nam, Malaysia hopes to attract more than 30 million foreign tourists next year. Viet Nam should adopt the same tactics.
During a conversation with Vietnamese journalists who attended a familiarisation trip to Thailand, a Thai tourism director was asked how foreign tourists were attracted. He replied that all Thais were educated not to cheat foreign tourists so that Thailand retained an image of being friendly and honest.
Thailand attracts foreign visitors three times as many tourists as Viet Nam, but it does not spend much time on tourism ambassadors. It does have tourist ambassadors, but they are foreigners promoting the nation in targeted overseas markets. Most of the promoters of the country's tourism are Thai politicians, diplomats, beauty queens and film stars.
Instead of wasting time on searching for a tourism ambassador, Viet Nam should invest in improving marketing, mobilising local people to protect the environment and being good hosts.
Several well known Vietnamese tourist destinations are becoming polluted due to over-exploitation. Will tourists return after they witness them - and what will they think of the long-legged beauty who promoted them? — VNS