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’Zero-đồng tours’ a blight on VN

Update: April, 25/2017 - 08:00
Nguyễn Văn Tuấn
Viet Nam News

The head of the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism, Nguyễn Văn Tuấn, tells Kinh tế & Đô thị (Economic and Urban Affairs) newspaper that localities need tailored mechanism to curb poor-quality tours.

“Zero-đồng tours” have re-emerged in tourist attractions in Việt Nam, for examples in Quảng 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-đồng tours” are of poor quality and have a negative impact on tourism. What has been done to curb them?

The Việt 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 adress 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 Quảng 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 Quảng Ninh and fulfill tax obligations.

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

Cheap tours, including zero-đồng 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 Quảng Ninh Province through inland border gates, paying about VNĐ330 billion (US$ 14.5 million) in visa fees and fares for sightseeing in Hạ Long Bay. The sum did not include revenues from accommodation and transport.

Each year, the province gets about VNĐ900 billion ($39.6 million) to VNĐ1 trillion from tourism that generates stable jobs for 3,000 -3,500 people.

To some extent, cheap tours and even zero-đồng 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.— VNS

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