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Foreign tourists with fat wallets have no idea where to spend in Vietnam: insiders

Thursday, March 22, 2018, 11:16 GMT+7
Foreign tourists with fat wallets have no idea where to spend in Vietnam: insiders
Foreign tourists shop at Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

While more and more Vietnamese are taking outbound tours and spending big in international destinations, foreign tourists are complaining that they have quite few reasons to open their wallets when visiting the Southeast Asian country.

Most international tourists plan only a short stay in Vietnam, and those who are willing to spend lavishly find few services or items worth their price.

Min-jun, a South Korean on a six-day-five-night visit to Ho Chi Minh City with his six-member family, visited the famed Ben Thanh Market, but left with only a few bags of dried lotus seeds and coffee.

The tourist told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that he had wanted to buy handicrafts and souvenirs, but found the products to be either poor quality or overpriced.

Tam Bui, the Vietnamese photographer behind a number of coffee-table photobooks, shared his personal travel experiences with Tuoi Tre, citing that other countries are quite good at convincing tourists to spend money while “in Vietnam, those who want to spend don’t know what to buy.”

Tam said souvenirs in the countries he has visited are diverse and unique.

“They may not be cheap but you can’t resist traveling home with them in your luggage,” he said.

“I wonder if Vietnam has a research team to study which souvenirs are attractive and convenient for international tourists.”

Foreign tourists shop at Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Foreign tourists shop at Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Thao, who works for an ad agency in Ho Chi Minh City, said she consistently left scratching her head when it comes to choosing “typical Vietnamese gifts” for her foreign partners, often settling on small figurines featuring Vietnamese women in three different traditional dresses or refrigerator magnets in the shape of women donning ao dai, Vietnam's traditional gown.

Other common gifts, including lacquerware and souvenirs made from bamboo and wood, are also available but “it isn’t easy to find those that are typically Vietnamese,” she said.

“And if you choose clothes or silk, chances are you will end up buying ‘made-in-China’ products,” she warned.

Changes needed

Ho Chi Minh City received nearly 6.4 million tourists in 2017, a strong 22.8 percent increase from a year earlier.

However, tourist spending only rose 12.6 percent in the same period, meaning more visitors are coming to Vietnam, but they are spending less.

The municipal tourism department put the blame on booming online travel services which offer would-be big spenders the opportunity to plan their trip via the Internet rather than through local tour organizers.

Holidaymakers are booking their own flights and hotel rooms through services run by international companies, leaving a meager piece of the pie for Vietnamese travel firms.

When it comes to shopping in Ho Chi Minh City, foreign tourists are also reluctant to spend large sums, instead preferring to try their hand at Vietnam’s bargaining culture.

Foreign tourists shop at Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Foreign tourists shop at Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

“We need shopping centers exclusively for made-in-Vietnam goods to service international tourists,” Bui Ta Hoang Vu, director of the tourism department, said.

Tran Van Long, general director of travel firm Du Lich Viet, said a tourist spends an average of 2.6 days in Ho Chi Minh City, too short to expect big spending.

Nguyen Van My, chairman of Lua Viet Tour, also said Vietnam needs more tourism products to keep tourists staying longer and spending more.

“We have to ensure that tourists are able to buy genuine Vietnamese goods at reasonable prices,” he said.

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Son Luong / Tuoi Tre News

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