Today I will be commenting on yesterday's news article posted on Thanh Nien News website quoting some travel agents that seems to think that Vietnam is now a destination on the verge of losing her appeal to tourists. The article in question has this headline: Tourists stop coming to Vietnam as the country fails to excite: travel agents. It goes on to quote:
Many travel agents warn that Vietnam’s tourism may crash as foreigners are flying to new destinations in the region, instead of tolerating a country they are no longer curious about.
Tolerating a country they are no longer curious about? ...really?
We have to start stating that Vietnam, as a country, will never lose it appeal with tourists. From the beautiful island of Phu Quoc to the endless delta's rice fields, to the long beaches of central regions to the the mountainous of Cao Bang there is too much to see, too many interesting people to meet. Think about it for a moment... Are you overwhelmed by all the choices of different places and landscape to visit, all the amazing things to do, all socially different people and friends we care about? And what about, the unique food culture? Only a handful for dedicated tourists would dreams to have time to explore all!!! No no no, Vietnam is not about to lose its appeal to the curious traveller; there is so much to see and do.
In Khanh Hoa Province alone, where we are based, one tourist could spend days exploring the many naturals beaches, the Cham temples, jungle waterfalls, the numerous islands of Nha Trang Bay, the diversified undersea marine life, the oceanographic museum, the beautiful Vinpearl Land water park & aquarium, the Yersin mountain house, the fantastic sceneries of paddy fields, salt fields etc. That's doesn't seem a boring place to us! We don't see the tourist being bored by Vietnam, just tourists mis-informed and lied about all the wonderful possibilities.
Before continuing, it will be helpful for the reader to understand where our team come from. The team at Ha Van Hotel in Nha Trang have meet tens of thousands tourists over the last 8 year as our hotel (36 rooms) as always been popular (in touristic guides, we've been #1 Tripadvisor about 5 years in a row until 2012 and we are enjoying a ''cult'' following by our regular guests. Our hotel is old, not particularly well built, rooms are on the smaller size, it is a bit noisy (being in the heart of the touristic area), a bit pricier than most of our hundred competitors (we need to pay the rent) and although we keep good maintenance of it, our hotel is not love for the building in which it is located but it is for the people who work in it. We have to note that the Ha Van Hotel host the Yên's Restaurant in the lobby (among the top touristic restaurant of Nha Trang) and The Rooftop Lounge (again, one of Nha Trang's favorite lounge). Our team is in constant communication with tourists, from everywhere and from all walks of life, and we meet them everyday even as Nha Trang and Vietnam suffers historic losses of travelers arrivals. At the Ha Van Hotel, we are in front seat of this catastrophic situation.
Tourist agents are right to say that tourists are not curious but is it not an incuriousness of Vietnam or most of its people. The are not curious about being stalks by rude xe-om and aggressive drivers in the streets of Ha Noi, Nha Trang or HCMC. They are not curious of the tour guides that seems to know less about places or historical facts than you do reading travel books. They are not curious about being charged different prices than locals. They are not curious of being told that everything is being taking care off just to realize that nothing is done. They are not curious about the hassle of getting their visas. They are not curious to travel in buses driven by psychopath drivers. They are not curious by all the scams, petty crimes targeted at them and the difficulties to report them. We could go on and on...horror stories told by our guests are as numerous as they are sad.
Obviously, there seems so many problems that it would be easy to fall for desperation and start blaming people or groups of people about this sad state of affairs. Is it the criminals, the xe-om driver, the employees at the booking office, the policing, the bus drivers, the various governmental agencies etc.? Our guests is that we are all to blame! But in those time of darkness and introspection, what we need are to deploy smart policies by a panel of true experts that have insight in Vietnam's tourism industries and people ready to learn and implement them with relentless hard work and passion.
So what are those smart policies?
(Let make a statement: the first priority of any smart policy framework is to start with education).
At the Ha Van Hotel we have our ideas about organizing a thriving tourist industry and we take inspirations from numerous places in the world that have adopted policies aimed to bolster their touristic arrival. We don't pretend we are expert in everything touristic but when we listen to our guests, there are some observation they make about other countries that would be wise to look upon. In South East Asia, there are place like Singapore with it clean street, well defined and unified touristic signalisation and efficient transportation network. In Thailand, you have smart visa policies that let tourists come free for a month and Bangkok as a very efficient airport with a large network of international flights . In city like New-York, they have implemented a ''broken windows'' policy where real estate owners were required to clean and repair all their building thus making the city look clean and safe; this particular policy was implemented more than 20 years ago to the delight of 50+ million tourists per year. Paris built a beach every summer on the bank of La Seine. Montreal city close most downtown to car circulation in the summer to create a large ''art neighbourhood'' accessible to pedestrians only. Close to home there are examples of smart policies being implemented: we can't praise enough the city of Hoi An to have expended the existing the pedestrian zone and the fact they have a free wi-fi zone in the touristic area. In HCMC, street have been enlarge and a subway is being built. In Quang Ninh province, Phong Nha Caves have been developed smartly to bring visitors and is organized in an efficient manner that it is starting to become a huge tourist attraction...
As you see, there is hope for the touristic industry of Vietnam but only if relevant authorities are willing to tolerate and apply out of the box thinking, professional advices from industry insiders and most of all, learn from the tourists they are suppose to care so much about! These people are smart, it would be foolish to not consult, listen and learn a thing or two from them. Tourists and people are easy to please when you respect them.
Will they be curious about solutions...we will find out soon enough. In the meantime, if they you like to comment, please do.
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