Red tape holds back Saigon canal boat tour: report

Thanh Nien News

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Tourists are seen on row boats cruising along Nhieu Loc - Thi Nghe Canal, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Pham Huu
The operator of the only canal tour in Ho Chi Minh City has said that it is still building toilets and other tourist facilities and, in the meantime, cannot receive more than a hundred visitors a day.
Phan Xuan Anh, chairman of tour operator Saigon Boat, was quoted by news website Saigon Times Online as saying that since the row boat tour along the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal was launched in September, his company has turned down many group bookings due to the lack of facilities. 
Its fleet of 22 boats can serve 200 people every day, but the company is receiving a few dozen only, mostly backpackers who do not mind the inadequate services. 
Anh blamed the problem on "a long time" to receive construction licenses. 
Now that most of the facilities have been nearly completed, the tour will be open fully on January 15, he said.
In the meantime, the company is still waiting for permission to launch a shuttle bus service to link the tour's terminal wharfs. The service is meant to make it easy for tourists who travel by motorbikes, as they can return to where they have parked their vehicles.
"It is quite difficult and time-consuming to get licenses for these additional services," he said.
Previously the tour was suspended for about one month, as the operator had to get it a proper license after launching it at the International Travel Expo with a special trial permit valid for a few days.
The tour covers 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) from Thi Nghe Bridge near the Saigon Zoo in District 1 to Le Van Sy Bridge near Nguyen Van Troi Market in District 3.
The 90-minute tour takes tourists on wooden boats under nine bridges, each with a history that is closely linked to the birth and development of the city.
Tickets cost VND220,000 (US$10) per person on row boats with six passengers, and VND110,000 on cruise boats with a capacity of 20.
Ho Chi Minh City has received an estimated 4.7 million foreign arrivals this year, up 7 percent from 2014.

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