Fonso Fietro picks up a lychee from the buffet table at the Rex Hotel in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.
He keeps staring at it, until a hotel staff member comes over and shows him how to peel it.
Then the Australian guest cannot stop eating, saying that he should have tried the strange tropical fruit sooner.
Many hotels across the country, particularly those with a large foreign clientele, are serving different summer fruits for free to answer the call of the national tourism association to promote local produce, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
Like Fietro, many foreign guests at the hotel have eaten Vietnamese fruits
, including dragon fruit, mango and rambutan, for the very first time.
Nguyen Hong Quang, the chef at Rex, said foreign guests are very interested in local fruit.
“They eat a lot, possibly even more than their main dishes.”
Imported apples and grapes are also available but almost no one touched them, he said.
Managers at the hotel estimated that it serves around 200 kilograms of local fruit a month.
Some hotels in Hanoi have been gifting tropical fruits to their guests. They also take orders from guests who want to buy more Vietnamese fruit to bring home.
Do Van Dan, director of a hotel chain in Hanoi, said fruit gifts are perfect for hotel guests and the idea is also to help local farmers.
Chefs at the chain also have their own ways to promote local fruit: they create new drinks and salads from exotic fruits that many foreigners have not tried before.
“The fruits bring new tastes to the dishes. Those combinations can hardly be found anywhere else,” chef Quang told Tuoi Tre.
Tran Van Long, director of the travel firm Viet Media Travel, said it is organizing tours to fruit orchards across the country.
Nguyen Huu Tho, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said it has received positive responses from hotels and travel firms to its local fruit promotion campaign.
But it will need the authorities to step in to build stronger connections between these new buyers and farmers.