Vietnam's $2.6mln stall at Italy expo fixed 2 months after criticism

By Thanh Nien Staff, Thanh Nien News

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 Foreigners in front of Vietnam House at Expo Milan 2015. Photo credit: VEFAC
More than two months after many visitors at the Vietnamese stall at the ongoing 2015 Expo Milan in Italy complained about its "offensively" poor and careless interior displays, Vietnamese authorities have finally moved to fix the problems.
In fact, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Vietnam House's organizers only acted after a Vietnamese national recently wrote on her Facebook page about how "ashamed" and "upset" she felt about her recent visit to the stall that supposedly cost VND57 billion (US$2.6 million). Her comments soon drew the attention of netizens and finally the media, sparking another round of public complaints and criticism about the Vietnam House.
The ministry said in a statement Friday that the organizer, Hanoi-based Vietnam Exhibition Fair Center Company, removed all fashion items with Chinese-influenced designs, and "straightened out" attendants who were accused of being "rude" and "cold".
In response to complaints that visitors were served bad foods that were barely representative of Vietnamese cuisine, the organizer was quoted as saying that it could not offer the world famous pho because it was impossible to cook the strong-smelling beef noodle in the stall. Moreover, the expo regulations only allowed fast and easily-processed foods, it said.
The organizer said it managed to introduce some Vietnamese foods like fresh spring rolls.
For its failure to restock fruit displays every day, the organizer blamed the fact that it had to transport Vietnamese fruits from Germany since they were not available in Italy. So, many fruits did not look fresh and were not as diverse as expected.
Regardless of the flaws, the organizer said, the Vietnamese food area was quite popular at the expo with long lines of visitors during peak hours.
It also said due to Italian and expo construction rules it had to assign a large part of the house's 552-square-meter area to facilities like bathrooms, dressing rooms, and a lift for disabled people, meaning the food and commercial sections ended up with only 8 percent of the area.
Previously, responding to visitors' complaints, Tran Van Tan, chief representative of Vietnam at the expo, told Thanh Nien they were some visitors' personal opinions and, internationally, the Vietnam stall got a lot of praise, including from the Italian Prime Minister.
"Visitors who don't like what they see can leave; they are not forced to stay," he said.
With 145 countries participating, the expo opened on May 1 and will go on until October 31.

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