Vietnam agencies fail to cooperate in promoting tourism

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  A performance of traditional music organized by a travel business at the 2013 Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Festival Day / PHOTO: HUU THANG

The lack of cooperation among Vietnamese agencies is worsening the already poor and ineffective promotion of the country's tourism.

Last month it was announced that the Vietnam International Travel Mart, an annual event organized by Vietnam Tourism Association in collaboration with Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, will take place on April 3-6.

The fair was first organized in the last week of April last year.

The change has forced Ho Chi Minh City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which has for years joined hands with HCMC Tourism Association in hosting the HCMC Tourism Festival Day, to organize the annual event earlier, on March 27-30, instead of the first week of April as usual.

Thanh Nien reporters found that around 30 percent of expenses spent on the HCMC fair this year will come from the city’s budget, and the rest will be contributed by attending businesses.

The Hanoi event’s expenses totally rely on sponsors and attendants.

The organizers, therefore, are calling for local travel businesses to join the events which will take place just a few days apart.

A representative of a big travel company in HCMC said although they felt “very tired” attending two consecutive fairs, they did not dare refuse the invitations.

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“We couldn’t help it, because we did not want our company to be noticed [by authorities],” he said.

Many other companies made similar complaints when speaking to Thanh Nien.

Dang Bao Hieu, director of Focus Travel Company also in HCMC, said travel companies want Vietnam to organize many promotional events, but the organizers should have discussed scheduling with each other and local businesses to avoid causing trouble and conflicts.

“Conflicts happened, showing that Vietnam’s tourism lacks unification, an arbitrator, and a coordinator,” he said, suggesting the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) should act as a referee to "harmonize" the benefits of all parties involved.

Meanwhile, La Quoc Khanh, vice director of the HCMC tourism department, said he had reported the troublesome situation to the leaders of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

He said the problem’s biggest consequence is that the public can see how central and local authorities of tourism fail to work together, dispersing tourism promotion’s resources.

“I feel sad, because the minster already ordered central and local authorities to collaborate to make tourism promotion more effective, but in fact there is absolutely no collaboration.”

Thanh Nien found that Vietnam spends VND30-40 billion (US$1.4 -1.8 million) a year promoting its tourism.

This minimal amount of money is the shared between VNAT and the ministry’s International Cooperation Department, which organize different and independent events every year.

Speaking about Vietnam’s tourism promotion, Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy chief of VNAT, said it is “poorer” than those of Cambodia and Laos, given that the two neighboring countries achieve annual growth rates in international arrivals of 20 and 15 percent respectively, while Vietnam only 10 percent.

He said Vietnam’s tourism products “lack uniqueness and creativity,” and are slow to improve, while market research is “passive and poor.”

According a recent survey by the Department for E-commerce and Information Technology at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, tourists spend nine minutes per session each time they search information at a local tourism website, compared to the world’s average of nearly 16 minutes.

The department said it was because the content on Vietnam’s travel websites is “unattractive.”

For instance, the websites of VNAT and the HCMC tourism department are mainly about their activities with articles in Vietnamese.

Other countries’ national tourism agencies, on the other hand, provide lots of information for tourists in many different languages. They also make use of social networks to increase their interaction with tourists.

According to VNAT, 722,350 foreign tourists visited the country in January, up 7.5 percent from the previous month and 21 percent year-on-year.

Vietnam received more than 7.5 million foreign tourists last year, a 10.6 percent rise over 2012.

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