While Ho Chi Minh City has emerged as an attractive destination for Japanese and Korean tourists, there is a dire shortage of tour guides capable of taking such non-English speakers around Vietnam’s biggest economic hub.
Many tour organizers have complained about the dearth of Japanese- and Korean-speaking tour guides in the southern Vietnamese metropolis, according to the municipal Department of Tourism.
As of the end of last year, Ho Chi Minh City had had only 150 tourism employees licensed to receive Japanese visitors, and a mere 12 tour guides who speak Korean, according to The Saigon Times Online.
Vietnam currently applies a one-sided visa-free policy to Japan and South Korea.
The Southeast Asian country receives 400,000 to 500,000 Japanese tourists on an annual basis, and Ho Chi Minh City is among their favorite destinations.
Vietnam is also among Japan’s top ten foreign tourist markets, so there is huge demand for Japanese-speaking tour guides to accompany Vietnamese tourists on trips to the East Asian country, according to The Saigon Times Online.
Travel firms therefore face even bigger difficulty in finding tour guides to serve both Japanese and Vietnamese customers, whereas some qualified ones take advantage of the shortage to ask for hefty wages.
Travel firms currently pay around US$30 to $40 a day for their contracted Japanese-speaking tour guides, and the rates can be higher for freelance guides, The Saigon Times Online quoted Nguyen Minh Quyen, chairman of the city’s tour guide club, as saying.
“However, as supply lags behind demand, some tour guides will ask for higher prices,” Quyen said.
They are also willing to terminate a signed agreement with a travel firm to work for another, if the latter promises to pay more, he added.
“There are cases in which tourists are ready and itineraries are all set, when the tour guides say they cannot come,” Quyen said.
“They usually make excuses including sickness or personal affairs, but we all know they simply work for another firm and receive better compensation.”