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How would you improve tourism in Vietnam?

  • somtam2000

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    When Vietnam News recently asked readers to contribute their thoughts on how Vietnam's tourism could be improved, one of the people behind Saigon-based tour agency, Come & Go Vietnam, penned his thoughts.

    Find below the full letter below reprinted with the kind permission of Come & Go Vietnam.

    Vietnam's tourism problems are internal, not external. Foreign tourists are aware of Vietnam and its attractions, but more needs to be done domestically to make it easier for tourists to visit Vietnam, and to encourage them to come back a second time.

    There are three problems that need addressing. Firstly, there is the visa issue. You recently reported that the number of Vietnamese visitors to Cambodia has increased, due largely to an easing of visa restrictions. Hopefully this has opened the eyes of Vietnamese tourism officials; create a simple visa on arrival process - or better still, scrap visas altogether for key and emerging tourism markets - and the number of tourist visitors to Vietnam would increase overnight, guaranteed.

    Secondly, you have the problem of repeat visits. Currently, 95% of visitors to Vietnam - an extraordinary number - don't come back again, the main reason cited being the constant overcharging and scamming they encounter on their travels. This gives Vietnam a very bad reputation amongst travellers, and word-of-mouth marketing is the most powerful kind. Considerable training and education is needed to instil a culture of fairness and respect amongst people working in tourism-related businesses - they need to learn that a happy tourist will spread the word and will hopefully come back, whereas an unhappy one will leave with a bad impression of the country. Those businesses that don't learn should be punished accordingly.

    Thirdly, Vietnam needs to learn what makes it attractive to foreign visitors, by listening to and taking advice from tourists and expat residents. A clue - it's not just culture, history or water puppet shows. It's cheap shopping, great beaches, good restaurants and, in Saigon at least, fun nightlife. Cultural tourists only tend to visit a place once. Holidaymakers - those who travel for fun, for cheap beer, and for lazy days on the beach - will return to a favourite spot again and again. And there are millions out there.

    Address the above three issues - and it's not diffcult - and Vietnam will really start to see the visitor numbers it deserves.


    These issues will strike a chord with many travellers who have spent time in Vietnam -- and I'd be interested to hear what others think -- given the opportunity, how would you improve Vietnam's tourism scene?

    Thanks again to Come & Go for permission to reprint the letter.

    Want to read more about tourism in Vietnam, give this a read: How to enjoy your time in Vietnam.

    #1 Posted: 10/8/2009 - 10:40

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  • Manticore

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    All points raised are right on the money.

    Another thing which would improve tourism would be to actually clean up the country. Most people think nothing of just chucking their rubbish as and where they please. It's quite a disappointment to turn up at a beach and find it strewn with empty coconut drinks, cans, bottles, and bottle tops.

    Is it any wonder the roads flood when the water can't drain away as fast as it could because the stormwater drains are plugged with paper, plastic bags, and empty cigarette packets?

    I will forever remember the litter as one of the low points about this visit!

    #2 Posted: 10/8/2009 - 11:27

  • BruceMoon

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    Somtam

    Come & Go cite three points, I'll comment according to relative importance:

    Places to visit

    I cannot see how this is an obstacle for repeat visitation. Both the tourism industry and word of mouth have 'sold' Vietnam well.

    While there are many more places than those on the Banana Pancake Trail, the tourism industry tends to promote this 'trail' such that few bother to get off this 'Trail'.

    A 'little' comment I'd make is that for whatever reason, institutional icons - religious and otherwise - tend to dominate the tourism literature. After that, karst and beaches feature heavily. There are many wonderful 'other' sites of interest that don't appear to get much of a mention. In some respects, because the tourism industry is (relatively) young, it has been easy to find places of interest. I think the industry needs to now diversify its 'offerings' to a greater extent.

    But, even if the tourism industry diversifies destination choices, this will not contribute very much to increase return visitation. The two factors below are much more influential.


    Visa

    Other than the size of the visa (why is it SO LARGE?), the visa arrangement doesn't deter me. Rather, it just means I HAVE to commit to going to VN.

    Malaysia - with discount airlines - has done a great job on getting short time, single destination travellers to visit. Thailand has done a similarly good job in getting long distance travellers to 'hub' at Bangkok. With the 30 day visa - with the relatively costly & troublesome application process - the Vietnam government is letting others take the valuable repeat tourism prize.

    The process and prices for the visa depending on where you live is stupid. This stupidity ought be read in conjunction with the most important 'issue', below: scamming.

    I believe from my travels elsewhere, the amount of money the Gov't receives for visa's would be more than offset by increased revenue into tourism operator 'hands' should they waive the visa application process. A standard 'entry fee' could be administered at airports and at borders (as in Laos). Or, like Thailand and Malaysia, welcome tourists with a nil-fee visa and reap the economic rewards.

    My hunch is that the Lenin-Marxist paranoia endemic in Socialist states towards everyone other than self will be sufficient not to see change here.

    Overcharging & Scamming

    This has now become an intractable problem. I believe it is the major reason why the return visits to Vietnam are so low.

    Not only is it so endemic, the idea is both advanced and promoted by the Gov't itself.

    The only way to stop this is for the gov't to come out publicly (and supported by its own actions) to prohibit double pricing according to the criteria of local/tourist. To enforce this, it would also need to establish a 'tourist police' where tourists can gain reasoned treatment against overcharging/scamming. Little by little, the kind folk of VN would adhere and support.

    But, I think pigs will fly before the overcharging and scamming ceases.

    After conversations with many others returning from Vietnam, it is this attribute - and this alone - that people say prevents their return visit.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers

    #3 Posted: 10/8/2009 - 11:52

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Problem of scamming, etc. goes deeper than most people appreciate.

    In VN it is the immediate family that is most important and outside of this circle of people nobody else matters much.

    The Government is openly breaking laws as well as Communist party officials being at the very heart of corruption, nepotism, etc. The Government is now busy buying their way out of the recession rather than solving real problems.

    If a Vietnamese person is treated this way by their own Government why should they treat anyone else different? they have learnt their lessons well.

    #4 Posted: 10/8/2009 - 12:28

  • Rohan

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    I am headed to Vietnam at the end of the year. While the visa strikes me as an unnecessary hassle, the thing that has concerned me most as a potential tourist is the scamming, and even a "tourist police" couldn't fix many of these problems simply because conduct that to me seems like scamming is completely legal in Vietnam. For tourist police to be effective, first the laws would need to change.

    In Australia, the law prohibits "misleading and deceptive conduct". While its not a crime, you can be sued for it. However, my experience in Singapore is that any law like this would be an anathema to the culture that exists in South East Asia.

    However, a more basic notion is the idea of something like trade marks, which protect "trade names". Vietnamese law doesn't seem to protect trade names. The problems with the Sinh Cafe name typifies this - I have seen people asking questions on this site to identify which website is the real website as well as reading about problems with fake storefronts (apparently including at the address given by the Lonely Planet). From a tourist's perspective, this is major - if I hear about a good tour provider, I want to be able to be confident that when I go to a shop with their name on it that they are the real deal and I am not walking into some 2-bit operator making a quick buck on someone else's reputation. I live in Sydney, and if you tried to set up a shop here under the same name as a successful competitor here, you would be shut down in a flash. I think that preventing operators from trading under someone else's name or a name so similar it is intended to make people think they are the same would go a long way towards solving some of the more significant scamming problems that I have read about.

    #5 Posted: 10/8/2009 - 13:49

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    I don't completely understand how the rip offs in Vietnam work. Someone tries to overcharge you just say no (or be less polite - my strong tendency) and find another vendor. Why is Vietnam different from Africa or Thailand or Laos in this respect?

    #6 Posted: 10/8/2009 - 18:07

  • scafire_jes-
    se

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    I too think the scamming aspect of Vietnam is overplayed. When I was there and talking to other travelers, a lot of it comes from unprepared people and those who are trying to do it too much on the cheap. With a little bit of research and vigilance it's pretty easy to avoid the worst of it.

    Except for the Taxi drivers...I hate those guys!

    I think VN would do well to get rid of the ridiculously overpriced multiple entry visa. I'm heading to Cambodia next month, and had briefly considered flying into Saigon (I missed it last time) and doing a loop up into Cambodia and back. But the price of the multiple entries visa shot that down quick.

    #7 Posted: 10/8/2009 - 23:48

  • anhluc

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    Posts: 32

    Come & Go Vietnam raised some concerns in my opinion. I don't think a country that doesn't protect it's borders is a very safe country to travel in. A visa requirement gives the authorities automatic grounds to deport you if you are found to be in violation of the visa rules. No visas, no rules. The locals aren't really the schemers and scammers per se. The schemers and scammers are others from Asian countries who are in Viet Nam solely to be a thorn in the sides of the travelers, if and when they are ever caught the lack of compliance with the visa regulations will be all the grounds needed for the authorities to deport them without due process.

    Granted, the locals may try to rip you off by asking that you pay more. These are not muggings and hostage situations, tell them to jump-off and they will. As mentioned by others - a prepared traveller is seldom ripped-off. Rip me off once, shame on you, rip me off twice, shame on me.

    The creation of a tourist czar is absolutely a crazy idea. There are already laws and rules on the book, they just need to be enforced. The attitude that you can penalize a business if they are trying to work at a higher profit margin is absolutely wrong (that's what it is when they tell you a price). For a communist controlled socialist country, Viet Nam is very pro-capitalism. We should be encouraging this. The Il's have a little dynasty further north of Viet Nam, they have no problem having a czar to tell everyone exactly what they can do and when, and how much to charge for it. Their's is not the model to be emulating.

    In addition, Viet Nam should remain Viet Nam and as visitors and ex-pats we are in no position to dictate how they should run their country. I for one understand that when people find a place they like for holidaymaking that they will return. Most people going to Viet Nam are not looking for holidaymaking, cheap beer, cheap t-shirts, and sunny beaches - they are looking for the experience and the adventure, and when they have had the experience and the adventure, they move on to the the next one.

    I for one am not looking for Viet Nam to become a holidaymaking destination filled with people of all ages, looking for cheap this, cheap that, and cheap everything. Hell, they have Thailand - what else could they expect.

    Finally, I might suggest that one of the biggest rip-offs (note: not a scheme or scam) in the Viet Nam travel industry are some of the tour operators with ex-pat, or Vietnamese living abroad ownership. One company that always shows up at the top of a google search quoted me US $500 more than what I eventually paid for the identical itinerary with identical dates and accomodations. The big crock of the matter is that many travelers will say 'oh their ex-pats and so I can trust them'. Yes you can trust that they will be trying to work at a much higher profit margin than many of the locals. And amazingly, they do get the work.

    Tune-in later and I will give you some real world examples of how the travel industry can be improved in Viet Nam, and some of the things they are actually doing right now, along with some of the goals that they have in regards to the industry.

    #8 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 05:17

  • BruceMoon

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    anhluc

    I don't think there was any suggestion that Vietnam dispense with visa's. Rather, that the change their visa system to bring it in line with most other tourist friendly nations.

    Vietnam already allows people from some countries to arrive at the airport, present their passport and get up to 30 days entry - without needing to get a pre-approved visa, or paying a fee. These people live in countries that have bi-lateral relationship agreements with the Vietnam gov't.

    The bi-lateral agreement relationships also apply in Thailand and Malaysia (amongst many). These two countries still issue visa's, in exactly the same way as Vietnam does for those coming from countries with bi-lateral agreements. That is, 30 days & no fee. The difference is that Thailand and Malaysia have gotten bi-lateral agreements with as many countries as they can so that tourists can enter readily, easily and hassle free.

    The point people are making about Vietnam is that its current visa 'process' for most tourist visitors still rests in the dark ages.

    Cheers

    #9 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 05:58

  • anhluc

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 32

    Thanks for the contrasting point of view Bruce, but "or better still, scrap visas altogether for key and emerging tourism markets" sounds like pretty strong language in favor of eliminating visa requirements.

    You are right in that Viet Nam has bi-lateral agreements that eliminates certain passport holders from having any type of visa whatsoever, while at the same time, certain passport holders only have to have a visa if they intend to stay longer than 15 days. The countries this effects are: Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. And Brunei, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Sweden.

    Bi-lateral agreements are put in place always for diplomatic purposes first (and not always the case), business purposes second, and tourism/travel would come in third. If this weren't true Viet Nam would have bi-lateral agreements with USA, AUS, and UK as this is where the vast majority of the travelers are coming from. When looking at the above list you can easily see these are countries that Viet Nam has had good diplomatic relationships with. Notice the neighboring countries of Cambodia and China didn't make the list. Diplomatic relationships can be hampered when you either attacked and tried to occupy one of the countries in the past forty years, or a country tried to do the same thing to you during that same forty year period.

    As I mentioned in the previous reply it is the foreign passport holders that come to Viet Nam as schemers and scammers. The Phillipine passport holders are very high on the list of those out to be a burden to the traveler. Notice they have no visa requirements, which means it is very difficult for the local authorities to deport them without due process.

    A smart nation will always use the visa system/process to protect its borders, regardless of the diplomatic relationship etc. Do I support Viet Nam streamlining the process to get a visa? Absolutely yes! On tripadvisor I have defended the visa on arrival system even when others think it has no merit. I recognize it as a first step in opening the flood gate to let people in. Can it be easier? Yes. Will it get easier? Yes.

    As far as the cost of the visa is concerned. Realize that any government program has to be paid by someone, and that someone is the traveler. Should we expect the locals in Viet Nam to bear the burden of the cost to issue/process visas? I wouldn't expect them to. Are the local authorities working on the issue? Yes. A visa upon arrival is US $25, for me a visa from the consulate would be $65. Viet Nam is doing a good job in eliminating costs as their system evolves.

    I for one am glad that Viet Nam is now in the last half of the 20th century - it won't be long until we welcome them into the 21st century. Heck, it wasn't but a couple of years ago that you had to pay your airport passenger service fee on the far side of security as you were going to the gates - now it's collected when you purchase the ticket like. The only drawback to Viet Nam joining us in the 21st century is it won't be the Viet Nam that many of us have come to love. Just as I said the holidaymakers have Thailand, those seeking an ultra modern, high-tech 'Asian' experience have Japan and Korea. What will Viet Nam evolve into, and will we like it when it does?

    Stay tuned. I just wanted to reply to Bruce's comment.

    #10 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 07:53

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  • BruceMoon

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    anluc

    Your comment..

    "or better still, scrap visas altogether for key and emerging tourism markets" sounds like pretty strong language in favor of eliminating visa requirements.

    This is NOT what I wrote.

    In fact, it is what was written in the Come & Go Vietnam article cited in #1.

    In any event, I would not advance that idea. I think its foolish.

    If Vietnam is letting some foreigners in - you cite Phillippino's - without sufficient visa details being recorded such that it can cause trouble, I suggest that says much about the entry system technology.

    As others here on Travelfish have shown, it is easy to criticise another. But, from where I come from, one needs to be factually correct to be relevant.

    Cheers

    #11 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 08:41

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 102

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Visa incomes are a major income source for Vietnam's foreign Consulates & Embassys overseas; both legal and under the table income sources (note differences in the law on Visas and what is actually charged!). Do not expect this to change quickly because of who is benefiting the most!

    In addition to visas Vietnam also requires registration of residence for everyone (locals & tourists); this is a Patriarcal traditional society. For foreigners traveling in VN this means that they can only stay at locations which are permitted by local authorities to be registered - normally a hotel of reasonable standard - which creates a false barrier/ pricing due to regulations. Try to officially rent a house and a non-Vietnamese travellor will find out reality of residency registration (some cities such as Saigon it is much easier than others to get around the regulations).

    The Chinese Czar (see Anhluc comments above) is in some ways a benevolent ruler and is far more public benefit minded than the same character found in VN. This is at the root of why there is such a difference in the rate of "development" (not that GDP figures tell much!) between the two. Why and where does something like 30-40% of all Government expenditures go?

    There are far too many loopholes in VN laws - and too many corrupt officials willing to look the other way for a bribe - to make enforcement of copyright or many other laws realistic. There are many "entrepreneurs" looking to pay bribes to get benefit and in a political system which is NOT open, transparent & accountable it is open hunting ground in such a way that it is dangerous and destructive for everyone! Not that Bush led USA was much better!

    I hope VN does NOT just become a "fun destination" with cheap beer, etc. Noted that since the Chinese stopped its citizens travelling overseas and taking out large amounts of money (example gambling in Macau) North Vietnam's prostitution & gambling have thankfully suffered! Now where are the gamblers to fill those 5 star resorts in VN licensed for gambling? and how will the developments repay the high fees for the license?

    What is needed in VN is less tourists, polluting less (physically, socially, etc.), more value added per visitor, more "sustainable" and long term. More focus on social & environmental interaction leading to deeper understandings between peoples from different countries. This can only be done by individual tour operators & others in the tourism industry and the Government (as typical of all Governments) is playing catchup and not leading.

    VN people need to decide if they want jobs or not - because times are going to get rougher before they get better! the worse has not yet hit VN.

    Reality is Ha Long Bay had 80% occupancy on its junks and now is lucky to have 10%!

    Most 5 star resorts (the primary focus for the last 5 years of VN Government tourism officials!) are down to about 20% occupancy and it is only VN tourist that are keeping them alive! (where are the Hanoi tourists getting their money from?).

    This 5 star focus is a major failing of VN tourism policy - because what is needed now is facilities for lower end tourists (3 & 4 star and NOT just 5 star) and is simply not available compared with countries like Thailand, etc.! many tourists have money but do NOT want to spend in uncertain times.

    Hanoi & Saigon has a broader industrial base than say Central Vietnam which really only has tourism!

    There needs to be a focus on "value" with 3 star more important than 5 star! and not on just high prices which means the middle layer of "commission people" (which drives all VN business) with high margins getting squeezed out. Many markets are "closed" to all but a very few local operators who effectively operate a monopoly with their commission people.

    This forum and others will NOT get the real truth about Vietnam written because very few want/ dare to speak out publically - and if they did chances are they can not write in English! Now on trial facing imprisonment in Danang are senior Policemen who have evidence of corruption by Communist Party officials - and it will be the Police who go to prison!

    Was the subject about scamming?

    #12 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 09:15

  • anhluc

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 32

    Alright Bruce, I don't know if I should ask for an apology or just ask you to re-read my reply.

    You are the one that defended that "I don't think there was any suggestion that Vietnam dispense with visa's. Rather, that the change their visa system to bring it in line with most other tourist friendly nations." In reply to that comment, I simply copied the quote as you accredited it from the Come & Go Vietnam comment. I know you did not say to scrap the entire visa system - but you failed to acknowledge that that was one of the points being argued by Come & Go Vietnam.

    Your other quote: "In any event, I would not advance that idea. I think its foolish." is my sentiments exactly for the reasons of security. See we agree. I wasn't puting words in your mouth, I was simply pointing out what Come & Go Vietnam had said by copying their quote and giving my opinion of why I thought it was wrong.

    Your next quote: "If Vietnam is letting some foreigners in - you cite Phillippino's - without sufficient visa details being recorded such that it can cause trouble, I suggest that says much about the entry system technology." If you noticed in my reply, the Phillipines is one of the countries that is not required to have a visa - for any length of stay. So the problem isn't in the technology - the problem is in the policy - Viet Nam does not require passport holders from the Phillipines to have a visa at all.

    On these points I know I am factually correct - but relevant is in the eye's of the beholder. You decide.

    Pablot - the Il's I made reference to are Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    The czar as I refered to it, currently is a fictional character that would be able to dictate the terms of conducting business within the travel industry in Viet nam and issuing punishment for failure to abide by these terms - a position that would be supported according the the Come & Go Vietnam response to the question posed which is contained in the original post. Here is the paragraph: "Considerable training and education is needed to instil a culture of fairness and respect amongst people working in tourism-related businesses - they need to learn that a happy tourist will spread the word and will hopefully come back, whereas an unhappy one will leave with a bad impression of the country. Those businesses that don't learn should be punished accordingly."

    The last sentence is the one that is most surprising to me.

    Pablot, other than the mis-understanding, I think you made some very valid and interesting points.

    I said I would actually respond to the question "How would you improve tourism in Vietnam?" I'll get to it . . . . later.

    #13 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 11:13

  • BruceMoon

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    anhluc

    Get your facts right...

    Somtam asked for comments on an article he copied into the first post.

    Specifically, he wrote ..."given the opportunity, how would you improve Vietnam's tourism scene?.

    Never did I support the assertion in the Come & Go Vietnam article to dispense with visa's.

    Rather, I responded about the complications the VN gov't creates for intending pax who are not from countries with bi-lateral arrangements, and the multi-price costs for a visa (according to one's country of origin).

    Criticise all you like, but in relation to me, get your facts right first.

    :(

    #14 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 11:35

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 102

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    There are already "Tourist Police" in most major cities that a foreign passport holder can contact in an emergency; or someone can contact Immigration because finally they all come under the same umbrella. Often the Officers speak English. In general this works because they are better equipped to deal with issues for foreigners - they are able to work across admin levels that other Police sometimes are not able to do.

    About 30 years ago China had "Foreign Exchange Certificates" which was Chinese money required to be used by all foreigners; this was part of their double pricing system. Foreigners could only stay in high quality hotels. China had a public loudspeaker system (public announcement) waking everyone up at 5.30 am (or similar hour) to the tunes of party propaganda. Everyone was required to register their residency. Now the Chinese have scrapped their system; yet Vietnam still keeps it going! Look at China's development! or rather look at how far Vietnam has falled behind China! Today Hanoi can not even compare to a small town in China.

    To suggest that foreign passport holders are responsible for most of the scams in Vietnam is total nonsense; and shows which side of the fence the author is sitting on! It is mostly Vietnamese scamming simply because there are more Vietnamese in Vietnam than there are foreign passport holders! most tourists do not come into contact with foreign owners of businesses very much.

    Scams are everywhere in Vietnam and there is little interest or ability in cleaning up the system because the system is at fault and scamming is institutionalized. For example; the best hotel locations are often owned by the Government; most Government hotels show very low profit even though they charge high prices (income is being stolen and going to someones pockets!); the Government also leases land for hotels to private investors; the Government also receives taxes & other payments from these private investors. This is a conflict of interest and just another form of institutionalized scamming! WTO membership should clean up some scams - which is what it did for China!

    The attitude of many Vietnamese is that except for immediate family people are not important and therefore there is nothing wrong with scamming! Massive inequalities exist within the society and the only avenue most people consider is to get on the train before it is too late! consider income levels vs. real cost of living and you will see that there is a major pressure cooker brewing in Hanoi and elsewhere.

    What is the tourist to do? simple, get on the internet and do as much research as possible from REAL travellors and NOT listen to the scammers on the internet! find out what really is going on. Find good operators providing real service or value. Then isolate & insulate yourself from the scammers. Scammers can only work & succeed if they have a "hook" that captures & "hooks" a tourist! examples are cheap products, illegal services, etc. so if you as a tourist remove the need to get "hooked" there will be no problem.

    #15 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 11:39

  • ComeAndGoVi-
    etnam

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Wow, some very interesting replies to my article, thanks all. I don't have time to address every single point raised but I'll try a couple:

    Visas
    I don't advocate scrapping visas across the board, just for key markets. In fact this process has already started - as well as tourists from ASEAN nations, visitors from Russia and Scandinavia no longer need visas to enter Vietnam. Were this extended to other key markets such as the UK, France & Australia, the results would be impressive.
    Security isn't an issue - visitors would still have to fill in a landing card, and the current visa process doesn't include background checks anyway so it's a moot point.

    Anh Luc writes that "as visitors and ex-pats we are in no position to dictate how they should run their country". I didn't say that. I merely said that foreign visitors and expats often have more idea about what makes a country attractive to tourists than natives. Let's take Britain as an example. I'm British and have no idea why anyone would want to go to the UK on holiday - but millions of people do, and love it. A few years ago Visit Britain appointed an American as chief executive to get a fresh perspective, and it worked. Countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia have outsourced their tourism marketing to private companies, and again the results have been impressive, particularly in the case of Malaysia.
    Ask a local in Saigon to recommend a good place for a weekend at the beach, and most of them will reply "Vung Tau", which is the last place most expats would want to go, as it's awful. Ask the same local where to go for a drink, and they'd probably suggest an overpriced hotel bar or a noisy Vietnamese cafe, as the expat bar scene in the city is totally alien to them. The same principle applies to Vietnam's tourism marketing - it's all based on the tastes and behaviour of domestic rather than international tourists.
    So I'm not saying that we expats should tell the VNese how to run their country, merely that we are perfectly placed to give advice - do you genuinely believe Vietnam has nothing to learn from tourism success stories such as Spain, Thailand or Malaysia? Spain emerged from Fascism in 1975 - the same year Vietnam was reunified. Compare & contrast their respective tourism industries. Spain has a good mix of commercial beach resorts and more "authentic" experiences- it is possible to do both.

    Finally, Anh Luc again - "The attitude that you can penalize a business if they are trying to work at a higher profit margin is absolutely wrong". Where did I say this? I said that tour operators & other businesses that cheat tourists should be punished. Operators that sell "luxury" Ha Long Bay tours then dump tourists on crappy old boats, taxi drivers who fiddle their meters, restaurants who add unspecified charges onto the bill etc - this isn't working at a higher margin, it's cheating. Tour ops such as ourselves have to go through a long, tortuous and expensive process to get our licences and we don't want to lose them - if that was a possibility, and it is in most countries that issue tourism licences - I'm guessing everyone would play a lot nicer.

    #16 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 11:54

  • anhluc

    Joined Travelfish
    15th May, 2009
    Posts: 32

    Hey Bruce, read your reply to my firt reply to the original post - here's the copied quote. "I don't think there was any suggestion that Vietnam dispense with visa's."

    It was at this point that I tried to correct you and point out that there was a suggestion that Viet Nam should dispense with visa's. I tried to point this out by copying the Come & Go Vietnam article reply that as you stated was posted by Somtam2000 in the orignal post.

    AGAIN - I acknowledge that you never said to scrap visas altogether.

    Bruce, you really need to go back through the sequence and you will see that much of what you are accusing is nonsense. I do have my facts right, I do know what was said. For a complete transcript of the discussion, use your mouse and scroll to the top and read from the beginning.

    Read the second paragraph of Come & Go Vietnam's letter that was reprinted in the original post. Read my reply #8 where I took issue with the comments made by Come & Go Vietnam's letter. Read the first sentence of your reply #9 - your defense directly conflicts with what was said by Come & Go Vietnam in the second paragraph of the reprinted letter. Read my reply #10 - it merely points out that your defense was not substantiated by the direct quote from the second paragraph of Come & Go Vietnam's letter.

    Give a good read Bruce and you will see that I never attributed comments made by Come & Go Vietnam to you. You simply took issue to my taking issue and misinterpreted the rest.

    If you can't own up to your mistakes, don't throw a 'hissy fit' over it. I do have my facts straight and now you can either acknowlege it, or get over it.

    #17 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 13:06

  • anhluc

    Joined Travelfish
    15th May, 2009
    Posts: 32

    How I would Improve Tourism in Viet Nam

    Recently the Minister of Tourism and some other things as well, spent over US $200,000 to run a series of 30 second and 60 second television spots in the UK. It was just recently announced that the same series of spots will run on CNN – Asia.

    You can see these spots which highlight the new motto ‘Vietnam – discover the hidden charm’ or ‘Vietnam – the hidden charm’ which is more popular in print, on youtube. The major flaw with these spots is the failure to point the viewer in the direction of a website or to even offer a toll-free number where viewers can call and request brochures and pamphlets that give additional enticing information that may lure viewers into actually wanting to explore the possibility of traveling to Viet Nam.

    The website – have any of you visited the official tourism website for the entire country of Viet Nam? The website is www.vietnamtourism.com. The entire thing is a mess and is aptly tagged .com meaning it is a commercial site created, it appears, to not do much other than generate referral business for a short list of tour operators and hotels. I would encourage the creation of a knock-out fully interactive web-site with a lot of media incorporated into it that will sell the visitor on the country in general, and not on a particular hotel or tour operator.

    Returning to the television spots, for the same cost it took to create, shoot, edit, produce, distribute and actually pay for the spots to be run, the ministry could have created a full-season length television series highlighting all the best of Viet Nam. Such a series would actually appeal to several television channels - for instance, Travel Channel, Food Network, The History Channel, National Geographic, The Military Channel and several others. Of course some segments would only appeal to certain channels, but some of the channels would be interested in the entire series.

    Interesting thing about series that are done for these channels – they keep playing over and over and over again. How many times have you seen Anthony Bourdain in the two episodes he was in Viet Nam? What about Andrew Zimmern when he did an episode in Viet Nam. In the UK, BBC’s Top Gear season finale was a two-hour segment in Viet Nam. The next year it was on BBC America. I see other posters on tripadvisor making references to a man in the UK who does a travel show and he had a recent episode that featured Viet Nam and it stirred a lot of interest amongst those who saw it.

    One point on doing a television series is that the channels don’t have enough content and this is one of the reasons why they keep repeating the programming they already have. Trust me on this one, this is just an overview and I have done a lot of research on the subject to the point that I am looking for funding to actually begin the project. Imagine how much further the money spent on 30 second and 60 second television spots could have gone had they done a television series.

    A concentrated marketing effort has to be focused on the American Veteran of the Viet Nam war. These gentlemen are part of the ‘baby boomer’ population and some of the youngest draftees that served in Viet Nam were born in 1955 making them about 55 years old. The majority of these veterans though are between 60 and 65 years old, retirement age in the US. These men have more disposable income than they have ever had. They will want to travel to Viet Nam for any number of reasons, and the ministry should be focusing a great deal of their efforts on these men and encourage them to return to their old ‘stomping grounds’.

    PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) is a mess. Membership is exclusive only to those who are willing to pay a substantial fee to join. The ministry should encourage and promote the creation of a Vietnamese Travel Association. Through this organization membership can be screened and based on something other than the ability to pay the membership fee. They can actually become the non-governmental regulatory body for accrediting hotels and bringing them to a rating system that is consistent with international standards, or provides their own definitions of what 5-star, 4-star, 3-star standards are and what a traveler could expect to find there. They could actually begin their own traveler friendly campaign that would allow travelers to know what companies have been trained on international travel standards and have agreed to abide by a code of ethics. Imagine the legitimate companies we all are aware of being able to brand their selves as being part of this organization. Granted, we have all made mention of the infringement on Sinh Café, but this infringement couldn’t be perpetrated on an official website. Thru standardization and accreditation you won’t have to punish the bad guys, which will come naturally as the legitimate companies rise above the rest, and the bad guys either begin to follow suit, or fold.

    Once again, those in the industry that will get organized, get standardized and get accredited will quickly create and become the standard that us as travelers look for, demand and expect. Give this some thought; it wasn’t too long ago that the idea of an hotelier actually picking you up at the airport was introduced in Viet Nam. Shuttle vans are common place across the US, a result of inexperienced travelers getting the scenic tour on the way to the hotel from the airport courtesy of a not so honest taxi driver and not being all that happy to have to pay for it. When I fly into Ha Noi in September, my hotel will be picking me up for a pre-determined cost. If they don’t show to pick me up, they just lost a customer for the next few nights. Can you see where I am going with this?

    There are an abundance of social problems that plague Viet Nam in every sector of government and I have spent nearly 20 years studying them. Will they go away? Eventually, but it will not be quickly. I will submit that the progress made the past four years in Viet Nam in regards to bribery, and corruption far surpasses the progress made during the first three decades of the country’s existence.

    A quick reply to Come & Go Vietnam - there is no comparison other than on a timeline to Viet Nam becoming unified and Spain emerging from under Fascism the same year - one was coming out of darkness, the other just going into it. They can't be expected to be at the same point in their development now.

    Another item that will help settle some debate is the use of the words scheme or scam or cheat. I don't look at them as being synonymous. Take this example - if one of your mates came to visit from the UK and wanted to take a tour that you offered, you would probably do it at cost, whereas I would still be charged full fare. Essentially I was cheated or 'ripped off' because I wasn't one of your mates. If you and your mate enticed me to take your tour and promised me the world and intentionally delivered nothing - this would be a scheme or a scam. I think alot of the locals in Viet Nam wouldn't classify us as their mates, so they aren't really looking to give us any special treatment either.

    So far in all my travels to Viet Nam, I have yet to be schemed, scammed, cheated or ripped off, in fact the only attempt was by the tour operator who was willing to charge me US $500 more for my trip than the competitor. I honestly am astounded by the number of travelers who indicate this has been their experience, but I believe them. It just has not been my experience so far.

    At a later time I will share with you some of the plans that the ministry has as far as development. They do have a plan, and you might be surprised to learn that many of us aren’t necessarily part of it.

    #18 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 13:46

  • tingers

    Joined Travelfish
    9th April, 2009
    Posts: 36

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    some good points raised there anhluc. Particularly in regards to the television specials .... I've lost count of the people I've spoken to - tourists and expats - who rave about the Top Gear Special.

    quite curious about your last paragraph, and I'm keen to read more when you have the time to post.
    "At a later time I will share with you some of the plans that the ministry has as far as development. They do have a plan, and you might be surprised to learn that many of us aren’t necessarily part of it."

    #19 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 14:35

  • ComeAndGoVi-
    etnam

    Joined Travelfish
    17th March, 2009
    Posts: 24

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Good posting Anh Luc but I had to laugh at "A quick reply to Come & Go Vietnam - there is no comparison other than on a timeline to Viet Nam becoming unified and Spain emerging from under Fascism the same year - one was coming out of darkness, the other just going into it." - how can reunification after years of war and destruction be labelled "going into darkness"!!! I'd say they were also coming out of it, albeit not into the same kind of freedoms that Spain enjoyed.

    And yes, it is an overly simplistic comparison and fails to take into account government policy, external sanctions/embargos, additional military engagements etc. But my point is, Spain developed a hugely successful tourism industry in less than a decade, so surely there are lessons to be learned there!

    #20 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 15:21

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 102

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I doubt if "sound bites" (eg. TV programs etc.) externally focused will help VN much because many people have already travelled to VN and there is a lot of bad mouthing (based on real experiences!) already on the internet! orchestrated statements and promotions by VN Government will have little result except to convince the same customers that real changes are NOT being made.

    What is needed is real changes and this must be focused on improving attitudes and service quality across the entire country. Some countries have managed to improve overall tourism service quality successfully by education, TV, etc. and VN needs to do something INTERNALLY to solve its own service quality problems. This is the fundamental point about Spain creating a successful tourism industry!

    Why? because it is less expensive today for someone living in Hanoi to travel to Bangkok and go shopping etc. than it is to do the same trip in Vietnam! and this is what people are now doing! So why should a foreigner travel half way around the world to come to VN?? at least in Thailand people smile when ripping you off!

    My definition of cheating, scams, stealing, ripping off, etc. is broad and covers basically any situation in which the "customer" (a tourist, investor, etc.) is making payment for something (product or service) and is not getting what she/ he paid for (or understood she/ he was supposed to be getting).

    This situation exists for foreigners as well as Vietnamese and for everyone in the private sector making investments!

    I have noted that Vietnamese travelling outside their local community are often cheated, scammed, etc. just as badly or sometimes worse in some cases than foreigners - prime example is now treatment given to monied Hanoi Vietnamese!

    The list of cheating, scams, stealing etc. covers all sorts of situations and anyone travelling or living in VN meets this daily. It covers all aspects of tourism including taxis, tourist buses, boats, hotels, etc. It also covers all aspects of owning and being in private sector business in VN; from bogus officials turning up asking for bribes to overall practices of laws and investment.

    Only by applying correctly the Rule of Law can changes be made and foreign direct investment levels increased to help to improve the economy; and this is a very difficult global economy so why should people invest? there are good laws in VN but not enforced because the benefits of enforcement will not be made by the officials who at the moment are profiting!

    #21 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 17:00

  • anhluc

    Joined Travelfish
    15th May, 2009
    Posts: 32

    I can only say that Viet Nam was only going into darkness because with the reunification the entire country fell under a Russian backed communist regime. The locals also refer to the years following the reunification up until about 1982 as the dark years.

    If Spain can build a flourishing tourist industry in a decade, I would concur that Viet Nam should be able to do likewise, and right now it isn't because the tour operators aren't trying to. As Pablot mentioned it's the political environment - though some good policy has been enacted, it isn't being enforced.

    Viet Nam as a society has naturally become very good at making you believe what they are saying, though they have total opposite intentions. It is engrained in the people.

    For how many years did they have to put on the front of supporting one thing, when actually the didn't. For them it was a matter of life or death, and is one of the reasons why the Viet Cong were so successful - friend by day, enemy by night so to speak. And this goes back hundreds of years, with the French, the Japanese, the French again, and how many times did they have to deal with the Chinese?

    Henry Kissinger - former US Secretary of State said (paraphrase)- when dealing with Vietnamese, always, always make sure you get what you want first, because once they have what they want, you will never get what it was that you wanted. I read this over fifteen years ago, and I guess it is one of the ways I have protect myself when dealing with Vietnamese people.

    After 1954, the duo of General Giap and Uncle Ho were trying to stamp out any resistance they could find to their movement. Major rewards were given to those who could 'root out' any opposition. Friends turned against friends, family against family. If I were a peasant farmer and could convince the authorities that my neighbor was a French sympathizer prior to 1954, they would arrest and detain the neighbor and give me his land as my own. Being 'two faced' and committing betrayals became lucrative and common.

    These practices still continue today. Just a decade ago a relative in south central Viet Nam was doing business as usual which was inflate the price, barter, get screwed out of payment by your client, threaten to retaliate with blackmail - but, the person who had screwed the relative had the trump card, his uncle was the judge. So my relative sat in a prison for fours years of his life.

    It is somewhat sad what goes on still. I look to the younger generation to be the solution to the problem. If we can encourage them to see that business can be conducted properly, that a healthy standard of living can be attained - honestly, then they will slowly turn from the past. Up until recently the most lucrative jobs were those in a government position of authority where you were in the position to extort higher payment than normal. The government is becoming aware of this also.

    Two years ago in Phu Yen province a gentleman in a position of authority, who had made a career out of extortion was jailed and all of his possessions taken. It had become so blatantly obvious to the commoners in the area that the man was living beyond the means that his salary would provide that complaints began to arise and caught the attention of others further up in authority. The made an example of him. In the same province just about the same time, a contractor had been awarded a major bridge building project. The contractor and his associates squandered the money. Unable to complete the project they blamed the weather and unexpected costs as the reason they would need more money to complete the project. The contractor and the associates now sit in jail.

    Things will get better - they are getting better. So why is all this important to a bunch of travelers? I guess I can only suggest that the more we know about the country and people we are visiting, the better our experiences will be. I think that's what we are all here for, to see that not only our travels but the travels of other members can be as fulfilling as possible. To that end let us all push forward.

    #22 Posted: 11/8/2009 - 23:30

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 102

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Dear Anhluc,

    thanks very much for what you wrote! beautiful! You have said many things which needed to be said.

    General Giap, still alive and now well into his 90's, recently came out with public statements against the Communist Party for what they are doing to the country and basically said today Vietnam is not the country he liberated! he has been snubbed by the Communist Party who are repressing as many people as they can and trying to spend their way out of trouble just to stay in power!

    In the West we shuffle our old parents (who in case we forget gave birth to us and nurtured us as we grewup) off to an "old peoples" home - as if it is a death sentence! in VN they are nurtured and respected and cared for at home surrounded by family and if their lives are correct they pass away at a good time and in a good way!

    It is the balance in thier personal lives that many travellors are seeking - to somehow combine all of what they have seen and experienced in their life into creating a new lifestyle which is increasingly becoming more "sustainable". It could be conscious or otherwise.

    What Vietnam has to offer is a traditional society based on Buddhist lifestyle and a wonderful & beautiful environment. It is NOT possible to receive and understand all this in a few hurried days on a whirlwind tour across Vietnam staying in 5 star resorts and airplanes talking just with your fellow travellors - like life it all takes time, you need to meet local people in their community to really understand about your own life. "The road less traveled" comes to mind.

    To those Vietnamese who are scamming, ripping off, stealing, etc. please continue if this is your lifestyle because you will get your just rewards anyway and it is not my issue or problem! it just means there are more customers for those who are doing business correctly - so what is needed is positive rewards for those who are doing business correctly!!

    #23 Posted: 12/8/2009 - 07:04

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Pablot

    You wrote...

    What Vietnam has to offer is a traditional society based on Buddhist lifestyle and a wonderful & beautiful environment. It is NOT possible to receive and understand all this in a few hurried days on a whirlwind tour across Vietnam ...talking just with your fellow travellors - like life it all takes time, you need to meet local people in their community to really understand about your own life. "The road less traveled" comes to mind.

    I could not agree more.

    As you would know from reading my replies to the too far, too fast travel itineraries, it's my belief the 'devil is in the detail'.

    On this, many,, many travel companies are merely showing Vietnam as an all in 14 days tour. Maybe these companies need to be re-oriented to look at doing detailed tours. For example, a 14 day "SaPa" tour, or a 14 day "Dalat and surrounds" tour. The current offerings in/around Vietnam seem to be heavily focussed as either day tours from a city, or extended as a couple of days.

    But, would such offering sell? That's an entirely different question.

    Cheers

    #24 Posted: 12/8/2009 - 07:17

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 917
    Total reviews: 2

    I'm a senior planning my 3rd trip to Vietnam now. The scams don't bother me one bit - I just refuse them. As a matter of fact, I think they actually increase my interest! The areas that bother me are credit card problems and hotels not honoring reservations. Why can't we guarantee a reservation like they do in the rest of the world? I am bothered by all the mini-bus accidents and avoid them as much as possible (I like air travel). When I see all the problems, false advertising and waste in my own country (USA), Vietnam looks more and more like a haven of sanity to me!!!

    #25 Posted: 12/8/2009 - 11:46

  • anhluc

    Joined Travelfish
    15th May, 2009
    Posts: 32

    I think there is an emerging market for the type of travel you mentioned, Bruce. Certainly not a large market at this point, but one that can grow.

    I look at many of the tour operators now who are promoting fully-customized, private tours. I think they are a step in the right direction.

    When you are stuck on a tour bus with 30 other people without even the right to say when you will 'pee', you will surely have no right to ask the vehicle to stop and pull over so you can enjoy the setting sun, join in the soccer game the little kids have going on the side of the road, take a picture of the truly bazar and ask what has brought it about etc.

    With the private tours, you will see travelers perhaps going at a slower pace and you would hope that they would have more opportunities for interaction with the locals. To Come & Go Vietnam's credit, I think these are the type of tours he hopes to specialize in, and I think the trend is catching on.

    Some drawbacks to the style of travelling Bruce refered to are the obvious time constraints. Being successfully under-employed Bruce and others like him are fortunate to have not only time, but the resources required to travel. A college student on sabatical will have the time, but not the resources. Corporate CEO's will have the resources not the time.

    Where I think this type of market will evolve from is the 'baby boomer' generation as they begin to approach retirement age. By the way, is the 'baby boom' unique to the US or is it evident in other countries as well? This is a very large segment of the population in the US that are living a much higher standard of living than their parents did at the same age, they have more disposable income then ever before and when they retire, time will be more available. In addition, as mentioned earlier, many of this population group spent time in Viet Nam as young men. I can easily see a larger group of travelers picking two, maybe three locations and spending a month experiencing them all in great depth.

    I hope that I have more opportunities like this in the future.

    #26 Posted: 12/8/2009 - 12:19

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 102

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I am not sure the US Vets are willing to come here in numbers - and by now most of those interested in visiting VN will probably have already been here.

    I think many people in the Western world of Europe, North America, France, UK, etc. are unsure of exactly what their retirement & other financial situations are - still there are too many unanswered questions about global financial markets. These people have money to spend but are not willing to spend in uncertain times.

    For sure the surprise is the domestic Vietnamese tourism numbers which for many in the tourism industry in VN (including 5 star hotels!) have taken up the slack of decline of foreign tourism. This is really the area of highest growth since 2008 and I think more attention is needed!

    I think the steady stream of 3 star tourism in 2009 (irrespective of 2008 meltdown) only proves that VN is a destination for many budget tourists - unfortunately for the VN Government they have not recognized the "bread & butter" aspect of this group and provided infrastructure etc. needed, and they are now paying the price because there is more "value" (how to define this?) in destinations like Thailand, etc. Refocus on this group (which includes many domestic tourists also!) will bring greater rewards for the industry as a whole.

    What should be happening - and strangely in a way is not - is that there should be more tourists from ASEAN countries, Japan, China as regional countries. With the shift of wealth from West towards Asia this is likely where the growth is - so what does VN have to offer to Asian travelors (including domestic travelors)?

    #27 Posted: 12/8/2009 - 18:31

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6255
    Total reviews: 10

    "I for one am not looking for Viet Nam to become a holidaymaking destination filled with people of all ages, looking for cheap this, cheap that, and cheap everything. Hell, they have Thailand - what else could they expect."

    The single most important customer for almost all buisiness models is the repeat customer.

    Now, if Vietnam only wants a certain kind of tourist, and isn't interested in marketing it's beaches and so forth for the "holliday making tourist" - because there's already Thailand, that's fine. But then don't ask the question in the first place.

    #28 Posted: 12/8/2009 - 23:50

  • anhluc

    Joined Travelfish
    15th May, 2009
    Posts: 32

    MADMAC - you're right that it is easier and more cost effective to retain a client/customer then it is to gain the business in the first place.

    You had copied my quote in your first paragraph, which was part of one of my responses - but it wasn't me who asked the question. Just for clarification.

    Pablot, your last paragraph touches on one of the things that I have become aware of as being one of the ministry's focuses - the Asian, and not just the ASEAN nations. In your post #12, you already exposed some of the drawbacks of trying to cater to the other more affluent nations surrounding Viet Nam, and they are major drawbacks.

    But part of the ministry's goals is to make Viet Nam the #1 choice for affluent travelers that reside in various parts of Asia, but, primarily Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. South Korea and Japan can get pretty nasty cold during the winter months - South Korea for sure, as I spent one there many years ago. But during these winter months Viet Nam is an ideal destination for these travelers - just like the birds migrating South out of the Northern Hemisphere for the winter. And actually Viet Nam is in closer proximity than Cambodia, Thailand and the rest of the other ASEAN countries.

    I think this explains why there have been so many 5-star hotels and resorts begin to pop-up, up and down the entire length of the country. Realize that many of these resorts are funded by European investors, and the current economic crisis aside, these folks aren't dumb enough to just go off making bad financial decisions - I think they know there is a huge potential market right there in Asia. Remember the largest foreign population living in Sai Gon is the Taiwanese, the second largest is the Koreans - and if they don't go to war with them first, you will see more and more Chinese come into Viet Nam and not just to take the labor jobs away from the locals, but they will be more affluential business men. All of these folks want someplace to go out and explore, places they can experience luxury but don't have fly back home for.

    I do agree that the real consistent money will be in the 3-star category as it caters to almost everyone. The ministry wants to promote 3-star and up because it is more lucrative for them. Have you ever been charged a VAT on the mom and pop places you have stayed? 3-star and up, VAT is pretty standard fare. Another great thing with the 3-star standard, and you touched on this, is the huge increase in local tourists. I know Vietnamese people love to travel and they do it as much as they possibly can afford to, even if it is something as simple as leaving Sai Gon and going to Vung Tao, Da Lat, or Nha Trang; for many of these locals 3-star is as close to 5-star as they will ever get.

    So this brings me to a point I eluded to in a previous reply in that many of us aren't necessarily part of the travel industry plans for Viet Nam. If you are trying to visit Viet Nam on the cheap, you won't be catered to. Vietnam Airlines is growing faster than Vietnam Railway and for good reason (though they did announce fast-tracking the new railway, it wasn't for purposes of tourist class travel), the small mom and pop guest houses won't continue popping up unless they are willing to pay their taxes and demonstrate their value to the authorities, and those already in existance may have to shut down, if they are unable to collect and pay.

    I am certain that all classes of travelers will always be able to find something in Viet Nam for a long time to come, but I would look for the changes that will encourage high class travel from within Asia, and a good solid 3-star level of travel that caters to locals and most other classes of travel.

    I would enjoy hearing other perspectives.

    #29 Posted: 13/8/2009 - 13:33

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 102

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Anhluc,

    I think some Asian societies - especially the wealthier - are seeking to understand their own traditions and Vietnam's culture and traditions are very close to what it WAS in many countries; many have now become "Western" and have lost aspects of looking after their families, ancestor respect, etc.. The influences of China cast a shadow across the region - including cultural etc. and many overseas Chinese are seeking a more traditional society to visit.

    I think it is the child riding on the back of a water buffalo and what this describes emotionally is what many in VN and outside VN want to experience and understand.

    I do NOT think it is "business as usual" after world economic problems highlighted in 2008 - I think we have a fundamental shift and we do not understand this at this time.

    I am not a believer in the primary focus on 5 star resorts.

    I think what is needed, and a less risky approach from a policy angle, is for across the board development of the infrastructure needed for a wide range of tourists from 3-5 star.

    I think "seal of approval" within the tourism industry from an independent body which is internet based - NOT VN Government please because this is corrupt! - will go a long way towards demonstrating which hotels, tour operators, bus companies, etc. really do perform! I think this may already partially be in place but more effort needs to be done to expand this. This will drive all VN businesses to excellence because they will know what they have to do.

    I have never seen a country change so quickly from not wearing motorcycle crash helmets to everyone suddenly wearing them overnight! (disincentive was 3 months impounding of motorbike if caught without a crash helmet - or pay large bribe!). Now think about how this energy could be put into making VN a better service environment for tourists!

    The internet is a great equalizer because it is the tool that everyone can turn to with their experiences, recommendations, complaints, etc. The internet also removes for many operators what is a major problem for them - the middle commission people who rip everyone off by charging margins of 30% or more for doing virtually nothing and therefore adding cost but little value. We need MORE internet!

    I am sure that in an age in which we are trully "inter-dependent" (assisted by tourism) with our communities, economies, etc. that the Chinese will not fight a war against VN. They already own America - so my guess is VN will be left alone until they have some pocket change and need to spend. But what they yearn for is the child on the water buffalo - and this is what VN has!

    #30 Posted: 13/8/2009 - 16:48

  • anhluc

    Joined Travelfish
    15th May, 2009
    Posts: 32

    Great comments - I'm not so worried about China attacking Viet Nam, but Viet Nam attacking China. Why are they investing so much money in the six Russian attack class submarines that they ordered this spring? Come on you little chihuahua, you don't want to take on the great dane.

    The internet is great. In the US the first to offer travel via internet were the travel agents. Once the actual service provider caught on to e-commerce the prices have come down and even now on travelocity.com you no longer have $6 booking fees.

    The kid on the water buffalo - it is a good image. It's one's that the 40-60 year old Japanese and Korean CEO's would like to see again, if not in their country, then somewhere else perhaps.

    Nice thoughts - thanks for your opinion and sharing them.

    China owning the US - you're right. They won't have to attack us, they will just foreclose on us.

    The helmets overnight. I was there when they had passed the policy and it was waiting for the implementation - I told my wife it would never happen. But, as you witnessed first-had, it happened real quick.

    #31 Posted: 14/8/2009 - 05:32

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6255
    Total reviews: 10

    "Come on you little chihuahua, you don't want to take on the great dane."

    They took them on in 78 and gave them a pasting. I'm not sure they still have that level of proficiency, but there was a time...

    #32 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 01:31

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 102

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Can you begin to imagine the amount of cash that was syphoned off by the Russians & VN in 6 subs? look from a VN view and you see the truth. How on earth can 90 million take on their old master (for 1000 years) with 1.3 billion? especially now the master is the superpower.

    What VN should be doing is spending the money on real infrastructure improvements! but then again with about 40% of all budget disappearing in someones back pockets resulting in far inferior quality/ safety maybe better not to spend at all! better let a strategically worthless Russian sub sink to the bottom.

    #33 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 07:20

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6255
    Total reviews: 10

    "What VN should be doing is spending the money on real infrastructure improvements! but then again with about 40% of all budget disappearing in someones back pockets resulting in far inferior quality/ safety maybe better not to spend at all! better let a strategically worthless Russian sub sink to the bottom."

    Pablot
    This is the arguement that is always used with defense spending. "We could spend it better on (fill in the blank)."

    #34 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 12:17

  • TS77

    Joined Travelfish
    5th September, 2009
    Posts: 4
    Total reviews: 9

    Excellent thread - was in Vietnam during July for the final part of a South East Asia tour and have very mixed feelings about the country in hindsight.

    Only specific example of outright cheating - some creative hotel accounting aside - was a taxi driver in (you guessed it) Hanoi driving us from the Old Quarter to Ho's mausoleum via the French Quarter but otherwise survived unscathed.

    Some seriously jawdropping examples in the four weeks however of how to undermine repeat visits by way of the transport infrastructure, pricing, tour schedules and street hassle in the North.

    There does also seem to be a serious lack of awareness too in Vietnam that for all that the country does warrant repeat visits on a quantitative level alone that reality of course slips in for the ex-visitor when one weighs up serious hassle in the cold light of day upon return. And lets face it...Hanoi's reputation is about as appalling as any city can get when you read through these forums.

    I personally had a great time in Vietnam and would love to see more - at a much later date - but am certainly still very conscious of the scale of problems that tourism is facing there.

    #35 Posted: 5/9/2009 - 01:13

  • Pablot

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 102

    A friend of mine is South African and he has some serious horror stories to tell about what goes on there in terms of ripoffs, etc.

    Finally comes down to each business in tourism and what they are doing to improve their business, service quality, etc. So if you are travelling pick carefully who you do business; if you are in the tourism industry to be in business for long term you must use "best" international standards of practices!

    Put into perspective Vietnam is not to bad! and lets face it which country does not need to do something to clean up its act on tourism.

    #36 Posted: 5/9/2009 - 09:13

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