Some travel agents have expressed their concern over unaffordable admission at Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, warning it would reduce package attractiveness and put off visitors.
Tourists to Ha Long Bay, located in Quang Ninh Province, spend VND200,000-250,000 (US$9-11) each for a daytime entry fee, and VND500,000-750,000 ($22-33) for an overnight one, and pay more if they use services, like kayaking and cruises, at the site.
A number of travel companies supposed that the price bracket discourages students and low-income Vietnamese workers from entering the bay.
N.T.M., local resident, said her family has not revisited the place since this pricing scheme was introduced in April 2017, as tickets for four people cost VND1 million ($44).
The entry fee is now too high compared with many other tourist destinations, according to Tran Quy Anh, representative of a Hanoi-based travel agency, who said the charge does not suit the pockets of average Vietnamese people.
Anh cited an example that the maximum admission at Lan Ha Bay, next to Ha Long Bay, is only VND40,000 ($2).
Phan Xuan Anh, general director of Du Ngoan Viet Company, said Ha Long Bay effected an across-the-board twofold increase in its charges as of 2017, with the entry fee climbing from VND120,000 (just over $5) to VND250,000 ($11), and admission fees at its various locations from VND240,000 ($11) to VND500,000 ($22).
Moreover, the bay requires payment from a tour guide and one visitor from a group of 16 tourists, who Anh said are typically waived according to a common practice.
The elevation of entry fees was already weighed up by the government in Quang Ninh, Pham Ngoc Thuy, director of the provincial Department of Tourism, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Monday.
Local authorities have hitherto received no complaints from visitors or tourism firms saying that the fee is high, Thuy underlined.
He said money collected from visitors is meant to improve service and security.
Pham Hai Quynh, general director of Van Hai Xanh Travel Company, supposed that while many people are split in their view of the entry fee, he perceived positive changes in infrastructure and Ha Long Bay employees’ attitude.
But Trinh Nguyen Hung Dung, director of Thien Nien Ky Travel Company, worried that the competitiveness of a tour offer to the bay could be reduced due to the new pricing.
“It’s tempting to think that as the number of tourists to the bay has risen steadily, heightening ticket prices wouldn’t affect customers. But this is the vantage point of regulators, not of tour organizers or visitors,” Dung said.