European tourists on all four latest cruise ships in Vietnam insisted on skipping Ha Long Bay.
They said “the boats were ugly and the security was poor,” said Phan Xuan Anh, director of the company which operates the tour.
Many travel agents warn that Vietnam’s tourism may crash as foreigners are flying to new destinations in the region, instead of tolerating a country they are no longer curious about.
Foreign arrivals in Vietnam fell for the 10 straight month in March, which also recorded the biggest year-on-year drop of 23.4 percent.
Figures from the General Statistics Office showed that foreign visitor numbers dropped to around 543,000, down nearly 30 percent from February.
A Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon report last month said the fall was largely a result of sharp drops in Chinese and Russian arrivals.
But companies told Thanh Nien that tourists from other countries are leaving, from those in Europe to neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia.
Anh, whose company mostly brings European travelers to Vietnam, said they are fed up with the way vendors in Ha Long keep hassling them and no officials have successfully ended it for years.
“My clients complained about it a lot. Some even demanded a refund or a discount after a tour.”
A company in Ho Chi Minh City recently had to come to find customers from Myanmar, who mainly travel to Thailand.
“We are looking for new clients as many traditional source markets are shrinking,” said the director, who did not want to be named.
The director said his company used to receive 1,000 American tourists a year, but the number went down to 200 the past two years.
Phan Dinh Hue, director of Viet Circle tourism company, said Vietnam’s tourism has stopped surprising tourists, and tour prices have become too expensive given the poor services.
“Vietnam’s tourism has gone past its golden age when the country could thrive on travelers' curiosity,” Hue said.
He said tourists now prefer emerging regional destinations including Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
Meanwhile, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are always renewing their services, and their prices are usually just half or a third of Vietnam’s, he said.
Anh said only places that can preserve some cultural traits and maintain proper security like Hoi An, Da Nang and Nha Trang, all in the central region, can keep tourists now.