Few first-time visitors to Vietnam return for a second trip, a situation experts think can be improved if each citizen sees themselves as a ‘tourism ambassador’ and parts ways with dishonest business practices.
With years of experience in the tourism industry, Tran The Dung, deputy general director of Vietnam’s The He Tre travel agency, said he had witnessed countless acts by local people that are slowly driving tourists away.
“A box of mung bean cakes that costs VND25,000 [US$1.10] in Hanoi can be sold for three times the price just 100 kilometers from the capital’s center,” Dung said.
Some souvenir stores offer a ludicrous revenue split for tour guides as an incentive for leading customers to their business, at the expense of inflated item prices.
Foreign tourists are smart shoppers, Dung said, and would not purchase an item if they think they are being charged more than the good’s worth.
In the long run, this short-sighted conduct only discourages foreigners from returning to the country and hurt everyone’s business.
|Foreign tourists ride bicycles in Hoi An, located in central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre News
In addition, Vietnam’s short-term tourism planning often means attractions are unprepared for large numbers of visitors.
The fact that service quality offered at a destination often plummets with the growth in tourist numbers is part of the reason why Vietnam’s tourism fails to renew itself despite having natural and cultural conditions to its favor.
Dual pricing and clingy vendors are all problems that experts agree can be easily fixed if citizens are aware they are hurting their own business by not seeing further than their noses.
“I’ve once witnessed a shop owner being criticized by fellow sellers for telling the real price of an item to a foreigner,” said Ho Chi Minh City resident Thuy Van, who works in the tourism industry.
According to Van, while authorities are busy adopting policies to boost Vietnam’s tourism, it is these overlooked acts by those who deal directly with tourists that are driving them away from the country.
It is necessary that each citizen is made aware that they are their own country’s ‘tourism ambassador,’ Van said, so that there would be no more stories of ugly attitudes towards tourists.
|Foreign tourists watch as a guide demonstrates how honey is harvested in southern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Out of 90 percent of foreign visitors to Vietnam who are first-timers, only six percent returns for a second visit, according to a 2015 report by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
Visitors often complain about the lack of entertainment services in the Southeast Asian countries, and well as poor choices of souvenirs that are unique to the Vietnamese culture.
They are also reportedly unsatisfied with Vietnam’s tax refund policy, which makes it a hassle for tourists to claim a refund unlike other popular destinations in Asia where foreign shoppers can have the tax deducted at the point of sales.
“Though I’m a tour guide, I don’t even know as a fact the steps to claim a tax refund whenever a tourist asks me for advice,” said Nguyen Thai Hung, who works for a local tour operator.