Vietnam investigates unauthorized ‘zero dollar’ mass gathering

By Minh Cuong   September 28, 2018 | 07:00 pm PT
Vietnam investigates unauthorized ‘zero dollar’ mass gathering
A group picture of participants in the 'zero dollar' tour mass gathering in the northern province of Quang Ninh. Photo acquired by VnExpress
Quang Ninh police are probing an event held last week that allegedly promoted China’s infamous ‘zero dollar tours.’

The event, dubbed an “experience exchange festival,” was attended by hundreds of Vietnamese and Chinese tour guides, tour agencies and related businesses.

Held in an unnamed hotel in the northern province’s Mong Cai, the event was not authorized by authorities, local police said Friday, a week later.

Tourists traveling on “zero dollar” tours go to Vietnam on Chinese-owned airlines, eat at Chinese owned restaurants and stay at Chinese-owned hotels. Vietnamese businesses gain nothing from these tours.

The alleged main organizer of the event, according to some participants, is called Tao the Ghost. During the event, this person collaborated with another unnamed Chinese businessman to form an organization called the “Northern Alliance,” in which tour guide members lead Chinese tourists on these “zero dollar” tours into Vietnam’s northern provinces. They communicate with each other on social media like WeChat or Zalo.

Participants clap during the event. Photo acquired by VnExpress

Participants clap during the event. Photo acquired by VnExpress

Mong Cai police has summoned Tao to investigate the matter further.

Vietnam is not the only country where “zero dollar” tours are being held. Each year, Thailand loses an estimated $9 billion due to this kind of tourism, Sansern Keawkamnerd, a spokesperson for the Thailand Government Office, said in February last year.

Quang Ninh Province, home to the world famous Ha Long Bay, had received over 3.6 million foreign visitors this year as of September, an increase of 19 percent from a year ago, its tourism department said.

Its tourism sector has earned estimated revenues of $833 million so far this year, an increase of 30 percent year-on-year.

Vietnam received 2.5 million Chinese visitors, or 32 percent of all international arrivals, in the first half of this year, an increase of 36 percent from the same period last year.

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