Russian tourists in Vietnam's central beach town of Nha Trang. PHOTO: DIEP DUC MINH
Vietnamese market authorities are investigating a travel agent backed by a Russian company who stands accused of forcing hotels to receive only their customers.
The Competition Management Department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade said a competitor, ABTours, filed a complaint late last year against Anh Duong Manufacturing, Commerce, Service and Export Import Company based in Ho Chi Minh City.
ABTours said Anh Duong (which partnered with Russia-based Pegas Touristik to bring most of the Russian visitors to the central resort town Nha Trang) routinely books out entire hotels.
ABTours General Director Nguyen Ngoc Luong said many Nha Trang hotels had refused their bookings even though they still had many rooms available, citing exclusivity contracts with Anh Duong.
The contracts allegedly required the hotels to only accept bookings from Russian, Ukrainian and other Russian Commonwealth tourists provided by Anh Duong.
Local hotels told provincial authorities that Anh Duong had imposed the condition on at least 43 hotels, most of them big ones.
Its partner Pegas signed similar contracts with eight other hotels in town.
Dr Pham Trung Luong, deputy head of the Hanoi-based Institute for Tourism Development Research, said if the complaints are true, they represent an instance of unhealthy competition.
“We should be very concerned about this. The act of abusing one’s dominant position is very dangerous to the business environment.
“We need to investigate and stop it,” Luong said.
Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy head of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said it is cooperating with the competition department in its investigation.
A business is considered to enjoy a "market dominating position" when it occupies more than 30 percent of its segments, according to Vietnam competition policies.
The Pegas – Anh Duong partnership brought in half of the nearly 300,000 Russian arrivals to Vietnam in 2013.
There were 730 charter flights carrying Russian visitors to Cam Ranh International Airport near Nha Trang, and the partners were responsible for 720.
ABTours chartered just ten of the flights.
Nha Trang has been a top destination for Russian tourists to Vietnam since Cam Ranh Airport, some 30 kilometers from Nha Trang, was upgraded to serve as an international airport in 2009.
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The airport, built by the US and used as a military air base during the Vietnam War, was continued to be used for military purpose until 2004.