Travel firms using foreign guides will lose license: VNAT

By Nguyen Chung - Tran Tam, Thanh Nien News

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A Russian man guides a group of Russian tourists around Champa temples in Nha Trang. Photo: Nguyen Chung


The Vietnamese tourism authority said it will revoke license of any travel agency found using foreign tour guides in the country, a practice which companies blame on the lack of local guides fluent in a certain foreign languages.
The statement by Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) was made after a Thanh Nien report last week about Russians working as tour guides in the resort town Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa Province.
Nguyen Manh Cuong, VNAT Deputy General Director, said in the statement such violations “directly affected the image and service quality of Vietnam’s tourism.”
VNAT asked city/provincial tourism departments to check for the violations and impose punishments, including revoking license.
It said tourism companies have to hire local tour guides who can at least speak English and the head of a foreign tour is responsible of interpreting it for any tour members who don’t speak English.
The Thanh Nien report said that at least three groups of Russian tourists to Cham temples in Nha Trang were led by Russian guides who did not wear tour guide cards as required by regulations.
A local relic management official said since he couldn't speak Russian, he didn’t understand what the tour guides said.
Phan Dinh Hue, director of a Viet Circle tourism company, blamed VNAT for poor guidance to help travel agencies be prepared for the market in foreign language training.
Hue said if VNAT had focused on training Russian speaking staffs since 2009, there would be adequate qualified personnel now.
Vietnam from 2009 started to exempt visa for Russians visiting up to 15 days.
About 298,000 Russians visited Vietnam last year, half of whom went to Khanh Hoa. The province expected the number of Russian tourist to double this year, but it has only 70 local tour guides speaking Russian.
Khanh Hoa, home to the Cam Ranh military port where a Russian fleet once stationed, is a favorite destination for many Russian visitors, some feeling comfortable enough to settle down.
Russian Navy began using Cam Ranh port in the province in 1979, making it Russia’s biggest Naval base outside its territory. The relationship persisted until 2002.
Cam Ranh was turned from a military port into a civil one for Vietnamese in 2004, but recent agreements have allowed Russia to come back to invest in a shipyard, a submarine base, and a 5-star resort for Russian military officers.

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