Travel agents reject Vietnam’s high sightseeing costs

By N.Tran Tam, Thanh Nien News

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The entrance into Phong Nha Cave in Quang Binh Province. The entrance into Phong Nha Cave in Quang Binh Province.

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Popular destinations such as Ha Long, Hue and Da Lat have been hiking entrance prices, which travel agencies worry will push tourists away.
For the new year, Quang Binh Province government in central Vietnam doubled ticket prices at Phong Nha – Ke Bang Park.
Entrance to Thien Duong (Paradise), which some consider the world’s most beautiful cave, now costs VND125,000 (US$5.83) for children and VND250,000 ($11.67) for adults, compared to the old prices of VND60,000-120,000.
Tickets to Phong Nha and Tien Son caves also shot from VND40,000-80,000 to VND80,000-150,000.
Nguyen Van My, the general director of Lua Viet Tourism Company, said his firm received an email about the new prices just the day before they went into effect.
“We signed contracts with our customers months ago. Suddenly ticket price hikes will make it extremely hard to arrange our tours,” My said.
He said the ticket price hikes at Thien Duong Cave will cost his company VND30 million (nearly US$1,400) on its existing contracts.
Quang Binh government said they need more money to maintain the caves, which became internationally renown after being explored by members of the British Caving Research Association.
For the same reason, Ha Long Bay also doubled prices at the beginning of this year while Lao Cai Province, home to Sa Pa, tripled prices earlier.
Authorities in Dalat have doubled the entrance fee at nearly every tourist destination since November 2014.
Thua Thien-Hue Province also plans to raise entrance prices to the Hue Former Imperial Palace this April from VND30,000-105,000 apiece to VND60,000-210,000.
Tickets to other relic sites in town will also be increased.
Ho Chi Minh City is thinking about doing the same for its museums, which have been rarely visited except for the War Museum that is so far free to locals.
My said the price increases hikes have proven “quite arbitrary.”
He said entrance tickets at many tourist sites in Vietnam go up three times a year, while prices in other countries rarely change.
For example, Angkor Wat has kept its prices since 1999, while many other destinations in Cambodia have remained free to enter, he said.
Nguyen Quoc Ky, general director of leading travel agency Vietravel, said a tour in Vietnam is already more expensive than in nearby countries.
Ky said the new prices “will push more Vietnamese to travel abroad.”
He said major tourism destinations should not work like a market where people can just raise prices.
Tran Van Long, director of Du Lich Viet (Viet Media Travel) Company, said cities and provinces are just following one another's example--an unsustainable policy.
Long said Vietnamese people are making more outbound tours because local destinations aren't worth the cost of admission.
He said the customers will agree to the price increases if they corresponded with some upgrade in the service--but they aren't.
Ha Long Bay continues to be very polluted for example, he said.
Long said travel agencies are not keen on promoting local tours, either, since the risk of losses is high given the spontaneous price hikes.

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