One way to reveal the hidden charm

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Another exposure of customers being ripped off at Tan Son Nhat International Airport - Vietnam's gateway to millions of tourists - make us wonder.

Where are the country's hidden charms? With this as the first experience on offer, we must be hiding them very well.

The problem isn't new or something very revealing. But it must be addressed.

The slogan, "Vietnam - The hidden charm," was created in 2005 as a rallying cry for the next five years (2006-2010), luring visitors with the promise that the country has something interesting and charming to offer each and every one of them.

But this search for the hidden charms gets off on the wrong foot when tourists and travelers constantly have to pay higher prices for food and drinks at the airport and to get to their hotels by taxi. Would this motivate them further?

These problems of ripping off customers also raise questions about the failure of airport authorities to address them sooner and their wisdom in allowing monopolistic use of airport space.

The highest tourism office in the country has been talking very earnestly about ways to boost the sector, especially in the wake of a global economic recession.

The first thing we need to do is create a good first impression.

So it might be a welcoming smile at an immigration checkpoint and good food and good service at reasonable prices. Or it might be a friendly, honest taxi driver providing a stress-free ride from the airport to the visitor's destination.

Whichever it is, we need to remember that first impressions last longer.

As for the authorities - Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam and others, they must tackle these problems with the spirit of protecting the soul and spirit of the country. It is a matter of national honor.

If we are able to make a good first impression, visitors will be able to figure out where our hidden charms lie.

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