Swedish tourist demands refund from Vietnamese company for 'unsatisfactory' services

By Tu Nguyen    November 21, 2023 | 01:30 am PT
Swedish tourist demands refund from Vietnamese company for 'unsatisfactory' services
A group of foreign tourists drive motorbikes during their Ha Giang Loop tour, October 2023. Photo courtesy of Lina.btnr
A Swedish tourist has asked a Vietnamese tour operator to return her money for providing "unsatisfactory quality of tourism services."

Alva White said she and her husband had just finished their tour to Ha Giang Province in northern highlands, run by a Hanoi-based travel company.

Previously, they booked a Ha Long tour from the same company and experienced good quality of services so they booked a three-night "Ha Giang loop" tour, departing on Nov. 18.

Under the agreement, the tour would have an English-speaking guide and the couple would stay in a separate room.

However, White said the company "did not provide services as previously agreed" when the tour guide hardly understood English and they had to stay in a dorm room.

In addition, they were also made to travel with another group on the tour, which White said was an "unreasonable arrangement."

"The tour guide couldn't speak English, so we were almost blind to information throughout the trip. The tour guide even didn't show us how to safely drive a motorbike," she said.

When the group started driving motorbikes across mountainous roads to conquer the 350-km-long loop, White and her husband could not keep up with the rest, she said.

The couple were fined by traffic police for not adhering to certain rules of the road. White said the risks of violating road traffic law were something she and her husband had anticipated, but she said that reputable tours would show customers how to avoid breaking the law.

The tourist commented that the company's tour organization was "very messy."

Unsatisfied with the service, the couple decided to cancel their schedule and asked to return to Hanoi. On Monday, White went to the company and asked it to return VND4 million (US$165) for them because of "poor services."

After both parties agreed, the amount they were returned was VND1.5 million.

The tourist then shared her experience on a Facebook page reserved for foreigners living in Vietnam.

Nguyen Minh Tan, director of the company, said she was "very angry" with the couple's behavior when they arbitrarily broke the original agreement.

Tan said the company accepted compensation for them does not mean "we admitted to providing poor quality services."

Tan explained local tour guides in Ha Giang can only speak English at a "very basic" level and cannot provide in-depth introductions to each destination like a professional tour guide.

However, she affirmed that tour guides clearly know Ha Giang's terrain so they "can completely ensure the safety" of tourists.

"Everything was an unnecessary misunderstanding," Tan said.

For the dorm room issue, Tan explained that the Swedish couple was arranged to sleep in a stilt house and the stilt house was divided into separate spaces with curtains, a characteristic of such rooms in Ha Giang.

At the company office, the staff had provided images of stilt houses in the tour introduction for the tourists, Tan added.

In the first nine months of this year Ha Giang received 2.1 million visitors, including 220,000 foreigners, and tourism earnings topped VND5 trillion (US$205 million).

The border province, renowned for its dangerous mountain passes and twisting roads, is touted as a must-visit destination by western backpackers who rent motorbikes to conquer the 350-kilometer Ha Giang Loop.

However, its inadequate infrastructure and poor services remain major challenges for tourism development.

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