Tourism and relevant authorities on Thursday had a web conference to find ways to protect tourists from illegal soliciting and fraud, but they did not come up with any radical solution.
In many cities and provinces like HCMC, Quang Ninh, Haiphong, Binh Thuan, Thanh Hoa, Hanoi, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Quang Nam and Danang, tourist safety is still at stake. Multiple cases of tourists being overcharged, deceived or coerced into paying for a service they don’t want have been reported.
HCMC has received 255 requests from diplomatic missions seeking effective coping measures. If the situation was not adequately addressed, they might consider issuing a travel advisory against the city.
Therefore, the municipal government has taken drastic measures to repress tourist scams, such as strengthening the tourist security force and establishing a hotline for tourists.
“Positive changes were seen at first, but the situation has almost got back to where it was,” said La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
The problem of tourists being disturbed by street vendors is also thorny. Vuong Van Kiet, vice chairman of Thanh Hoa Province, said many tourists had fallen victim to this type of harassment in Sam Son, making this tourist site less attractive.
Yet, it is hard to completely solve this problem due to the absence of heavy sanctions.
“Offenders are fined a mere VND150,000 and exhibits are detained in less than 12 hours. After being punished, they could move from one area to another to keep doing business, making controls almost impossible,” said Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc, vice chairwoman of Hanoi.
Representatives of many localities proposed the Government set up a tourist police force, impose severe sanctions against tourist scams and provide a mechanism for establishment of tourist support centers.
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan, head of the National Steering Committee for Tourism, said the tourism industry saw its growth slowing in the past years and started declining this year. An unpleasant tourism environment is one of the causes.
He agreed with the suggestion for building a tourist support center in each province. He asked the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to submit a scheme for assigning the police to protect tourists, and study the feasibility of a tourist police force.
According to the General Statistics Office, international tourist arrivals in Vietnam in the first five months of 2013 are estimated at over 2.9 million, down 1.4% year-on-year.