Creating a win-win situation for tourists

By Khanh Huynh   June 1, 2023 | 04:27 pm PT
Creating a win-win situation for tourists
Foreigners visit Quang Nam's Hoi An Town in January 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Phuong
The Vietnamese tourism industry needs its perception changed in the long run if it wants to progress.

In the past, tourism facilities and services could charge horrendous prices to squeeze every last cent out of tourists and get through such acts relatively unharmed. Nowadays, in the age of social media, bad reputations could wreck businesses sooner than they can imagine.

Dozens of years ago, my family sold coffee next to a national highway. There was an unspoken rule that if the cars passing through had license plates from another province, we could charge them whatever price we fancied, as the tourists would likely not return anyway.

I tried my best not to do so, believing that negative rumors would one day reach our future guests. One act of bad behavior can easily be discovered far away.

Nowadays, it is even easier for notoriety to spread, potentially to the other side of the globe.

I usually refrain from participating in discussions about tourism in Vietnam, as most of what I wish to say would be complaints, which have already been prevalent on many online forums.

Tourism in bad faith can quite easily disturb the enthusiasm of tourists and taint any later affection that they may have towards a destination. A cup of coffee in a famous tourist spot in Vietnam might be charged much more than the same cup served in Times Square in New York, an outrageous experience.

A taxi driver might intentionally take tourists straight from the airport to a strange hotel, despite the explicit direction towards some pre-booked places the tourists might have had, just because the mystery hotel and the taxi driver have a share profit agreement.

People might find it easier to excuse low-quality infrastructure than low-quality services. Once something happens, every Lonely Planet or Tripadvisor guide will put up red flags, and seasoned tourists are likely to consult this before making any travel decision.

Despite being born and raised in Vietnam, I still fell for such blatant bad tourism. Sometimes, it was the foreign friends who were the most sympathetic. "Tourism in Vietnam, not a surprise," they usually said. They would go back with empty wallets, stomachaches, and a promise to travel somewhere better next time.

How can Vietnamese authorities regulate bad tourism? Only with regulations can Vietnamese society find an organized approach to exterminate experiences.

First, I suggest we organize a structured system where foreigners visiting Vietnam can rent vehicles for themselves without fear of being charged exorbitant prices, so that they can explore the country on their own. Foreign friends can freely explore wherever they want, without unfortunate circumstances where they rely on the taxi drivers' mercy to take them to their destinations.

Second, we should have a system where tourists and local service providers can report bad behavior. Every incremental complaint can help, step-by-step, improve the tourism landscape in Vietnam.

Third, we could even organize business ethics courses to educate tourism service providers throughout the country. They need to learn that tourism can be a win-win experience for both tourists and service providers alike. We should aim to build a sustainable relationship where one satisfied tourist would bring more future tourists in to support honest tourism service providers.

*Khanh Huynh is a lawyer based in the U.S.

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