|Foreign tourists buy souvenirs in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai's Sa Pa Town. Tourist support centres are needed to prevent foreign tourists from being overcharged and robbed. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
HA NOI (VNS)— Tourist support centres and special police were needed to prevent overseas visitors from being overcharged, robbed and otherwise swindled by local services.
This was according to tourism experts nationwide who said scams and overcharging were the main reason for a decline in foreign tourists.
They were speaking at an online meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan on Thursday.
Statistics from the National Steering Committee on Tourism show that the numbers of foreign tourists have fallen by 1.4 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Cities and provinces of Ha Noi, HCM City, Quang Ninh, Thanh Hoa, Da Nang and Ba Ria-Vung Tau reported that rip-offs had become more prevalent in their localities, causing tourists to form negative impressions.
Le Thanh Dung, deputy chairman of southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province's People's Committee, said prices of services at hotels, restaurants and transport companies had risen unreasonably.
And, he said, more tourists were becoming the victims of swindling.
Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc, deputy chairwoman of Ha Noi's People's Committee, said punishments for swindlers were not strict enough. Offenders usually just paid a fine of VND150,000 (US$7.10).
Moreover, most people working in the tourism industry had yet to get any professional skill training, she said.
Leaders and experts also agreed that it was beyond the capacity of state agencies managing tourism to stop swindlers and tourist scams.
La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the HCM City Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, said special tourist police were needed to take over such responsibility as was the case in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Laos.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said the current situation where police handled tourist complaints would be reviewed by the end of the year.
Nhan agreed that tourist support centres should be established to receive urgent calls and take quick action.
He asked that localities focus on training in tourism industry and publicising good examples of tourism services.
Tran Minh Ca, deputy chairman of central Quang Nam Province's People's Committee, said Hoi An had held many training courses in tourism and communication for salesmen and taxi and cyclo drivers.
The city had also published regulations on high-quality restaurants and hotels which received regular inspections. Prices are also publicly listed in these places, he said.
All violators risked having their trading licences revoked.
These efforts had stopped most of the rip-offs in the city, he said. — VNS