French tourists threatened for leaving hotel in Vietnam capital

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Caballero Mathias, a French tourist to Hanoi, shakes hands with a local hotel receptionist at a police station April 27 as he received compensation from the latter for being threatened when trying to leave the hotel

Authorities in Hanoi are investigating a case in which staff members of a Hanoi-based hotel allegedly threatened the lives of three French tourists who had been taken there by a taxi driver against their will.

The tourists told police that they arrived in the capital city on April 24 and were taken to a hotel in Hoan Kiem District, which was not the one they had booked.

They were told they would be beaten, even killed, when they announced their intentions to leave after realizing they were in the wrong hotel after one night.

One of the tourists, Caballero Mathias, who has visited Vietnam three times before, said he was unafraid and demanded compensation, but the hotel refused. The tourists then left the hotel and informed the police.

The tourists and hotel staff members were summoned to the Hang Bac Ward police station on April 27, at which point the tourists demanded VND17 million (US$817) in compensation for the psychological trauma they incurred as a result of the threats, as well as for their loss of time and money due to the collusion between the hotel and the taxi driver who took them there.

The hotel staff members agreed to pay VND10 million, but police said they would investigate further. The hotel was not identified except for its location on Hang Thung Street.

Mathias said he has met many friendly people in Vietnam and the situation was an unusual one. He said once the case is settled, his group will resume their planned tour of more than one month across the country.

Mai Tien Dung, deputy director of Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, told news website VnExpress he will demand that the hotel and taxi driver be strictly punished after the police conclude their investigation.

Dung said such collusion between hotels and taxi drivers is not new, and that previous culprits had been punished.

But he said the department will cooperate with the city police to monitor all hotels in the area to prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future.

Authorities in Vietnam's largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, have launched various campaigns to better protect tourists in light of similar schemes to rip them off.

Police in the capital recently fined a cyclo driver for charging Australian tourist Ilona Schultz and her two children VND1.3 million, more than ten times the normal price, for a five-kilometer ride. They had earlier agreed to a fare of VND70,000.

On April 25, Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism came to apologize to Schultzf for the cyclo rip-off.

Tuan pledged actions to tackle the problems that have plagued foreign tourists and tarnished the image of Vietnam's tourism.

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