Look before you leap

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It is not rocket science, really.

If we don't think things through, carry out careful, thorough studies, and implement plans properly, we will end up wasting a fortune.

Worse still, we will lose opportunities that may never come again.

Last year, Ho Chi Minh City spent nearly VND2.7 billion (US$139,000) on a program promoting its tourism sector. Named "100 Excitements," the program aimed to list the top tens in each of ten categories: hotels, restaurants, souvenirs, entertainment venues, shopping, must-taste dishes, city attractions, coffee shops, city tours and cultural events.

The list was chosen through votes cast by local and foreign tourists over a three-month period starting last October. It was also overseen by a jury comprising officials from the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Department of Industry and Trade, and tourism reporters.

Program initiators planned to promote "100 excitements" by cooperating with international airlines and playing video clips introducing the top tens on flights to HCMC. They also planned to play the clips, three and half minutes long each, on TV screens at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport and many sightseeing spots across the city.

The promotion was expected to include pamphlets, postcards, websites and guidebooks. They even wanted to copy the list together with their descriptions into 2,000 USBs and send them to travel companies at major markets for Vietnamese tourism.

However, since the list was announced in February, it has slipped into oblivion as the promotion plans couldn't be carried out.

For example, representatives of international airlines in Vietnam said it was impossible to play the clips on their flights to HCMC, because it depends on their companies overseas. The planned cooperation didn't even work out with state-owned carrier Vietnam Airlines.

In the meantime, the program's website at www.hcmc100e.info remains plain and unattractive.

Moreover, the list itself provoked controversy among travel companies who said the voting wasn't scientific and impartial.

Foreign tourists coming to HCMC usually stay for two nights before leaving for other places or countries like Cambodia, so they don't have enough experience to evaluate the best transport companies, hotels and other establishments. It's obvious that they will vote for the hotels where they stayed and restaurants where they ate, the companies argued.

Tourism is recovering well after the global economic crisis, and people are travelling again.

But our ineptitude means that at this very opportune moment, we have wasted the chance to market our tourism attractions, not to mention thrown away VND2.7 billion from the city budget plus a large amount of fees contributed by local businesses to the program.

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