Recognition of Ha Long Bay justifies higher price: official

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Ha Long Bay, recently listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world, should have higher admission fees commensurate with its prestige, Tuoi Tre quoted a local official as saying Saturday.

Do Duc Thang, deputy chief of the bay's management board, made the statement two days after the Quang Ninh People's Committee began charging nearly twice as much as the previous price of admission to the World Heritage site, provoking protests from tourists and travel agencies.

He said that while many people were probably surprised by the increase, the new fee is reasonable.

According to the official, another reason for the price hike is to raise money necessary to improve the quality of the site's management.

Currently 45 percent of admission fees are spent preserving the site, including maintaining bridges and other equipment, he added.

He also said that inflation was another cause for the price increase.

Meanwhile, Doan Thi Thuy Hanh, chief accountant of the management board, said the decision should have been issued in May, but was delayed until now because it had to be approved by the provincial lawmakers, the Quang Ninh People's Council.

Under the decision issued by the provincial authorities, from December 1 visitors to Ha Long Bay will pay between VND40,000 and VND100,000 (US$1.9-4.7) each, depending on the sightseeing route they choose, Tuoi Tre reported.

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Tourists are also asked to pay for the whole route as a package ticket, instead of buying admission to individual sites, it added.

Hanh said package admissions will help send tourists to the most destinations, instead of just particularly popular ones like before.

On Friday Dan Viet (Vietnamese people), the news website of the Vietnam Farmers' Union, quoted an unnamed representative of a travel company as saying that the abrupt increase in admissions has caused a stir among tourists.

Quang Ninh authorities should have announced the new prices in the media so travel companies and tourists could have been informed in advance, the representative said.

Last month Ha Long Bay was named on the preliminary list of seven new natural wonders of the world by the Switzerland-based New7Wonders Foundation. The list was made up from hundreds of millions votes cast worldwide.

The list is expected be finalized early next year when the organization finishes verifying the votes.

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