Vietnam government must do more to protect tourists: officials

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The French tourists who received death threats on April 24 upon announcing their intention to leave a hotel after realizing it was not the one they had booked. Photo by Nam Anh

Vietnam's tourism industry is being forced to deal with the increasing number of scams plaguing foreign visitors on its own, as the authorities have largely ignored its pleas for help, a tourism official has said.

Such problems entered the national spotlight last month when local media reported four instances of foreign tourists being victimized in Hanoi, including three incidents in which they were charged ten to 20 times more than normal prices for rides or street food.

In the most severe case, three French tourists on April 24 received death threats upon announcing their intention to leave a hotel which they were taken to by a cab driver against their will.

The trio received VND10 million (US$480) in compensation for the psychological trauma of being threatened by the hotel's staff and the waste of their time and money.

Hanoi police said they are investigating to determine whether the taxi driver who took them there had colluded with the hotel.

But Vu The Binh, vice chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association, said that might just be another empty promise.

"Foreign tourists have been the victims of rip-offs and frauds for dozens of years and the tourism authorities alone cannot put an end to that," Binh said.

Binh said tourism companies and the association always lodge complaints regarding the problems which most frequently occur in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to local administrations, but never receive replies.

He said he does not think the authorities really care. "If they did care, things would be different."

The official said it took Hanoi police only one day to track down the cyclo driver who charged an Australian tourist 20 times more than their agreed price for a ride on April 23, so if they had attached the same importance on preventing such crimes, they could have prevented them from happening in the first place.

"The tourism industry cannot fight all frauds and robberies against tourists in the whole country. We are armed with nothing but the laws," Binh said.

Pham Trung Luong, deputy head of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, also requested that local governments be asked to play a more significant role in solving the problem.

Luong said many tourist victims travel to Vietnam on their own, and that holding tourism agencies accountable for their safety is too big a burden for the sector to bear. 

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