Thanh Nien News recently published a commentary titled “How tourism in Laos, Cambodia is galloping ahead of Vietnam.” I respectfully disagree with author Nguyen Van My’s criticism of Vietnamese tourism.
It seems like the author has a certain prejudice against Vietnamese tourism when he only recognizes shortcomings and not the positive side.
Vietnamese tourism is not perfect, but the government has made remarkable investments and offered great support. Thousands of festivals nationwide welcome dozens of millions of visitors. There are national, regional, and provincial festivals.
There are some unique festivals in Vietnam -- like the Southern Region Fruits Festival at Ho Chi Minh City’s Suoi Tien Park, the Buffalo Fighting Festival, etc. The Hung Kings’ Death Anniversary is also a unique cultural event of Vietnam.
Thanks to the government’s policies, colleges and universities have widely developed, outpacing many ASEAN countries, and most schools have a tourism faculty.
Many students from Laos and Cambodia come to Vietnam to study in these schools, while no Vietnamese students go to school in neighboring countries. Who will be willing to study from one not as good as themselves?
In Vietnam, major tourism events always attract senior government officials, no matter how busy they are. A deputy prime minister was made chair of a committee that was set up to monitor the vote for Ha Long Bay and Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park as new world wonders.
The government has issued a Strategy of Vietnam Tourism until 2020. Is there any similar strategy in Laos, Cambodia and other ASEAN countries?
Who said Cambodia has no beggars? They are not begging around at Angkor Wat or markets in the center but are abundant around Tonle Sap Lake and Kulen Mountains in Siem Reap.
At pit stops in Cambodia, beggars always surround Vietnamese tourists. They say Vietnamese are kind and love Khmer people more than people from other countries.
Littering in Cambodia is no better than in Vietnam. Try looking at slums and rural areas.
Who said traffic in Vietnam is worse than in Cambodia? In Cambodia, many cars have no license plate. Traffic is terrible, and passengers can be caught in a traffic jam inside a bus or even on top. Motorbikes carry up to 4 passengers and no one wears a helmet.
Vietnamese tourists are often cheated into buying “local specialties” like dried fish and meat, dried bananas, etc. at inflated prices. The foods are sometimes inedible.
A visit to Tonle Sap, at a cost of US$20, is no fun.
At border gates, conductors have to pay bribes and tourists have to pay extra fees. In Vietnam it would make headlines if a border gate officer asked for a bribe.
Meanwhile, in Laos, everything is slow as if you are sleepwalking.
Markets open after 9 a.m. and close before 4 p.m. Services are only available five days a week for six to seven hours each.
How could services in Laos be compared with those in Vietnam?
Vientiane Airport is small and passengers need to transit in Phnom Penh or Hanoi while flying to Ho Chi Minh City, and there is only one flight a day.
Many Vietnamese run businesses in Laos and Cambodia and not vice versa because they cannot compete with their Vietnamese peers.
It is unreasonable to say that tourism in Laos and Cambodia is more developed than Vietnam.
There needs to be accuracy when criticizing an issue and mention should be made of both shortcomings and accomplishments.
If the Strategy for Vietnam Tourism until 2020 is properly executed, I believe that Vietnam tourism need not be afraid of any competitors in ASEAN.
* The writer is a senior executive at a state-run tourism company in Vietnam. The opinions expressed are his own.