Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers about Ha Noi's plan to provide free wi-fi internet access around Hoan Kiem Lake in the belief that the service will attract more tourists and stimulate economic growth in the bustling heart of the city. Here are some responses:
How can Viet Nam better link its simple, but exotic street food to attract more tourists?
Lonely Planet publishers claim Ha Noi has the top 10 walking tours for foodies. Its writers suggested that a feast of local street food can include the old favourite pho bo (beef noodle soup), banh xeo (egg crepes), and gossamer-light banh cuon, (steamed rice crepes filled with minced pork, shallots and mushrooms).
The capital was even placed on a list alongside craft beer in Gastown, Vancouver, and French street food in Nice, France.
Vietnamese street food has enticed the world. Many dishes found on the streets are frequently ranked as excellent by many food and tourist organisations. In May, CNN put Viet Nam third on its list of 10 healthiest ethnic cuisines. It also placed goi cuon (summer roll) as one of the world's 50 best foods in 2011.
However, Viet Nam has not capitalised effectively on linking food and tourism. In 2012, the Singapore Tourism Board established a Food and Beverage Division to promote tourism. This followed trends showing that visitors spent more than 13 per cent on food while in Singapore.
After experiencing Viet Nam's street food, what can you learn about Vietnamese culture? When visiting a city for the first time, do you like taking walking cuisine tours to fast-track your understanding of a its cuisine? How we can better link food and tourism to brand and market domestic destinations?
Please reply by email to: email@example.com, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 79 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, June 13, 2013.
Helen Hunt, American, Ha Noi
Honestly, I think Ha Noi should do more to improve the quality of services rather than worry about wi-fi. As a tourist, I can survive without wi-fi internet access, and if I ever need to surf the net, staying at the hotel or going to a cafe will help solve the problem.
After all, internet cafes are quite cheap, so I do not have any problem with paying a small amount of money to use the net for half an hour or so.
I actually doubt wi-fi internet access will help attract more tourists because they have lots of other priorities. I was in Bangkok last week where department stores charge you for wi-fi use, which is not very convenient.
However, tourists still come to Bangkok and want to return because of the great service and the interesting culture. It has so much to offer that one minor problem doesn't really bother anyone.
Having said that, I think providing free internet access is still a good move from the Government. I expect internet access will allow tourists to search for local attraction sites anytime of the day when they are near Hoan Kiem Lake. We tourists like to feel that people are paying attention to our concerns and trying to make life easier for us.
Hoang Yen, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
Your topic this week raised a question in my mind. How exactly would a free wi-fi network attract tourists?
I do not know the detailed plan of Ha Noi's Information and Communications Department to provide free wi-fi internet access around the lake, but don't think it is something that tourists are demanding.
Yes, a free wi-fi network would bring convenience and help to improve the image of our capital and bring us in line with many other cities in Viet Nam and overseas. In that sense, it is a good move. It is not, however, a decisive factor that will contribute much to tourism development.
Having travelled to several countries and seeing how their cities work, I think Ha Noi should focus on improving transport, the standard of service and English language capability.
Traffic jams often occur in the city and the absence of cleared pavements makes tourists feel scared. Transportation from the airport to city centre is inconvenient. Other countries provide links between the two for a cheap price, along with a lot of detailed free information that makes everything less stressful. Here though, straight away the service quality is not good enough and prices are unreasonably high.
English is not common – which is a big constraint for visiting foreigners. Rather than just investing in a free wi-fi network, why do we not explore our current problems and find the root causes that are preventing tourists from returning.
By improving these issues, we might get better known among people who love travelling and they will visit and come back again and again.
Paul Stokes, Ha Noi
Free wi-fi is already available in many cafes, hotels and eating-places, and there are many places tourists can access the internet around Hoan Kiem Lake.
The city should attract more tourists and develop the tourism sector in other ways. I suggest that Viet Nam gets rid of visa payments, as Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines have done, instead of charging at least US$45. These costs stop many foreign tourists coming here.
The transport services from Noi Bai International Airport to the city's downtown after 9pm everyday need to be improved. Foreigners arriving at that time will find nothing except taxis who try to extract as much money from them as possible. Nearly every country I have visited has excellent bus services from airport to the main city at reasonable prices.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Free wi-fi around Hoan Kiem Lake will bring unwanted costs. Be prepared for rich lazy local kids lounging around filling up benches. Be ready for drive-by motorcycle snatch and grab thefts of expensive iPhones. Expect poor service and reception with subsequent frustration and complaints.
Call me old-school, but I think this lake is a beautiful oasis in an otherwise too-busy capital city. Bring a book or camera, get an ice cream, stretch your neck and look for the old turtle in the lake while keeping an eye out for newly-weds taking portraits.
All students studying business, English and tourism should also be out and about the lake, walking around, taking surveys, getting feedback and meeting international travellers.
Technology is great and instant access to information would be helpful. But do not install the wi-fi until you establish English-speaking tourist police and an English tourist helpline call.
On second thoughts, open up the wi-fi and create a website listing official, tourist tested and approved locales that charge the local rate, provide clean bathrooms and a friendly service. Now that would be valuable and priceless free advice.
Tran Binh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I got the chance to visit several foreign countries on my holidays, I was charged to access wi-fi for internet surfing. Hence, it is good to hear the plan to provide wi-fi internet access around Hoan Kiem Lake. I personally think this will attract more tourists to Ha Noi.
I was amazed when I heard that Hoi An City will install 350 wi-fi hotspots at a calculated cost of about VND25 billion (US$1.2 million). This is too much and I wonder how long the city will be able to offer wi-fi access for free. — VNS