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Operator likely to end tours to caves near Son Doong over fee hike

Sunday, February 05, 2017, 14:18 GMT+7

A famed operator of expeditions to caves nestled in a UNESCO-recognized national park may stop offering tours to two grottos over a recent fee hike. 

Nguyen Chau A, CEO of Oxalis Ltd., known for offering adventure excursions to Son Doong Cave, the world’s largest, and neighboring grottos said his company was notified of a VND600,000 (US$ 26) fee rise from the management of Phong Nha- Ke Bang National Park in late January.

The UNESCO-recognized park is nestled in the north-central province of Quang Binh.

The raised fees include charges for sightseeing, forest environmental services, and rangers’ surveillance involved in tours to Va and Nuoc Nut grottos, two of the park’s cavernous wonders.

“With such a fee increase, our company will suffer losses and not be able to recoup our investment. We have also offered discounts to tourists since last year,” Chau A said. 

He added Oxalis had spent more than VND1 billion ($43,708) building paths  and installing safety equipment inside the caves. The company has urged that the provincial People’s Committee maintain the current fees as they have sold tours to clients within this year for previously fixed prices.

“If we fail to get a nod, we will terminate our contract to offer tours to these two grottos starting May 2017 and clear the sites of our equipment,” Chau A added.

Speaking with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Nguyen Van Ky, chair of the Quang Binh Province Tourism Association, stressed he was not supportive of Phong Nha- Ke Bang park management’s fee hike.

“The hike will bring about only a marginal increase to total revenues, but leave investors bewildered and dubious about the stability of the provincial administration’s policies, which may result in a waste of tourism resources,” he noted.

He added the fee rise also violates the rates approved earlier for Oxalis by the provincial People’s Committee and People’s Council.

The company has offered tours to the caves in only one season, while the contract lasts five years, Ky said.

Meanwhile, Le Thanh Tinh, the park director, asserted the fee rise will not prevent Oxalis from making profits.

“Several companies have agreed on  higher fees for the right to provide tours to Va and Nuoc Nut grottos. We will accept it if Oxalis wishes to terminate the contract,” he said.   Tinh added his park will work with representatives from Oxalis regarding the matter next week.

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