Businesses skeptical about gov't plan to collect tourism development fee

Thanh Nien News

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  Russian tourists arrive in Phu Quoc Airport. Photo: Giang Son

Hotel operators have urged the government to work more on a plan to raise money for its tourism development fund, saying its practicability is not clear, news website Saigon Times reported Monday.
They were responding to a tourism ministry proposal to charge foreign guests staying at hotels rated at least three-star a fee of VND10,000-20,000 (45-91 US cents) per night.
After two years the fee will also apply to domestic tourists.
The ministry, which expects the fund to raise VND2-2.5 trillion ($91.55-114.44 million) within five years, with 30 percent coming from the government’s coffers and the rest from businesses and tourism incomes, plans to spend it on promoting tourism, opening representative offices in foreign markets, training human resources and developing tourism products.
Speaking to Saigon Times, many businesses agreed that Vietnam needs huge sums for tourism development, and that businesses should pitch in since the government alone cannot afford it.
But they were skeptical about the new proposal.
Duong Thanh Thuy, chairwoman of Trung Thuy Group, which owns a group of hotels around Vietnam, said the proposed fee is "unreasonable" and would affect businesses.
Very few of them would dare charge their customers more, and many would pay from their own pockets, she said.
With foreign visitor numbers consistently falling, authorities should support businesses instead of creating more trouble for them, she said.
Dang Huy Hai, deputy general director of New World Saigon Hotel, said there is a chance that hotels would fake the number of rooms they rent out to pay less.
The government could add the fee to taxes by, for instance, increasing value-added tax, which would guarantee its "fairness", he said.
But hiking VAT is also "a bad solution" since it would increase prices, hitting the competitiveness of Vietnamese tourism, he said.
He has never seen any other country adopt such a plan, he said, while the ministry said it is in compliance with international norms and many countries have it.
In 2013 the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism had sought to charge foreign visitors $1 a day to raise money for its tourism promotion budget.
But businesses and experts had dismissed the suggestion as vague, impractical and unreasonable.

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