Tourists who are ripped off in Hanoi should not blame themselves if they fail to recall the city’s hotline for complaint, as even a top tourism official does not remember the number.
Truong Minh Tien, deputy director of the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, admitted at a meeting on Friday he forgets the hotline number for tourists to report rip-offs.
The meeting was held to recap the six-month activities of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and was chaired by Minister Hoang Tuan Anh.
The event was overshadowed by news that more and more tourists have stopped visiting Vietnam, and the number of vacationers falling victims to rip-off in the country is on the rise.
“Rip-off is like you steal from the tourists, which will certainly affect Vietnam’s tourism,” the minister said.
Anh urged that relevant agencies must take action to stop the phenomenon, and punish service facilities that refuse to quote prices.
The minister also told the meeting a story to illustrate what awful rip-off tourists may face in the Vietnamese capital city.
“A Vietnamese-American couple went to eat pho in Hanoi the other day and were charged VND800,000 [US$36.75] for two bowls of the noodle,” he said.
The tourists refused to pay and complained, then the eatery owner responded by slashing his knife onto the table and shouted “shut up,” the minister said.
“The couple eventually had to pay VND800,000 and quietly left.”
A bowl of pho normally costs VND30,000-VND50,000 ($1.3-$2.5).
In response to the story of Anh, Tien said he will “review to identify the eatery that ripped the couple off.”
The deputy director also said Hanoi has a hotline to receive complaints from such situation, and that the hotline “is running effectively and helps exposing many cases.”
However, when asked what the hotline number is, Tien admitted he does not remember it, shocking all other attendees at the meeting.
Many cases in which tourists, both foreign and local, are overcharged by service providers at tourism spots across the country have recently been reported by the media.
A tourist has complaint he was charged VND600,000 ($27.5) for a chicken at Sam Son beach in the northern province of Thanh Hoa.
But the province’s tourism department is still investigating the case to determine if it is really a rip-off, deputy director Nguyen Xuan Thanh said at the meeting.
“The customer and the restaurant have conflicting statements so we are unable to conclude the case,” he said.
A Ho Chi Minh City tourist complained to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper earlier this week she was charged VND420,000 ($19.3) for a 1.2kg crab, which turned out to weigh only 420g after cooked, as the heavy string used to tie its claws was removed.
A vacationer from the north-central province of Ha Tinh also complained he had almost paid VND4.43 million ($203) for a VND1.95 million ($90) dinner had he not rechecked the bill when eating at a seafood restaurant in the central city of Da Nang.
A woman from the southern province of Dong Nai, meanwhile, has been severely injured after complaining to a seafood vendor in the south-central province of Binh Thuan that her goods was not properly weighed.
Vietnam posted an 11.3 percent drop in foreign tourist arrivals in the first half of this year, with only 3.8 million international tourists.
The country has waived visas for tourists from five European countries since the beginning of this month in a bid to lure back international visitors.
But the move was apparently off to a rough start as some tourists complained they still had to pay for visas in Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport on Wednesday.