Restaurants at risk from 'unreasonable' new regulations in Vietnam: commerce chamber

By Minh Nga   February 22, 2018 | 04:51 am PT
Restaurants at risk from 'unreasonable' new regulations in Vietnam: commerce chamber
Tourists are seen in a restaurant on Bui Vien Street, a common rendezvous of foreign backpackers in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The draft law defines 'quality' restaurants as able to seat at least 50 guests at a time and accept credit card payments.

Restaurants in Vietnam could be facing trouble if a draft tourism law that includes several clauses that have been described as “unreasonable” by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) is passed.

According to the circular drafted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, restaurants will have to be able to serve at least 50 guests at a time and accept payments by credit card in order to receive a recognized accreditation.

The ministry said that accredited restaurants will lift the local service sector and meet the higher demands of visitors.

Tourists can obviously choose any restaurant they want, but they would feel more secure in accredited restaurants, argued the ministry.

But the VCCI, which represents the country’s business community, said the number of seats in a restaurant has nothing to do with service quality.

If the circular is passed, only large restaurants will be able to meet the ministry’s demands, which is unfair, the commerce chamber stated.

In some cases, restaurants with fewer seats can offer better services and food as they focus more on their customers, the VCCI said.

The new requirements aim to make it easier for groups led by travel agencies, but are still unreasonable because not many companies cater for groups of 50 people.

The size of a restaurant should not be used to decide the quality, and details such as English versions of menus, food safety and clean rest rooms should be focused more upon, said the chamber.

Regarding credit card payments, the VCCI said this method is less popular in Vietnam than in other countries, and that foreign tourists rarely use credit cards for small payments such as catering services.

Vietnam is trying to lure more visitors after pinning tourism as a key pillar for economic growth.

At a meeting of the legislative National Assembly in October last year, Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue said Vietnam needs to stop relying on crude oil and focus on tourism to ensure its economic growth, saying mining output of fossil fuels has been falling for the past two years.

"It is better to welcome one million tourists than trying to find one million tons of crude oil because tourism is more eco-friendly and safe for the economy,” Hue said.

2017 was another record-breaking year for tourism in Vietnam, with foreign visitors rising 29.1 percent to an all-time high of 12.9 million.

The country aims to welcome 17-20 million foreign visitors in 2020, creating a tourism revenue of $35 billion.

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