Vietnam rickshaw drivers trained to please tourists

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Cyclo drivers in Hue City at  a training class to help them please tourists and promote the city's image on Saturday / PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE

Cyclo drivers in Hue recently attended a training class taught by Vietnamese lecturers from the University of Hawai'i to help them please tourists and promote the city's image, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

The class was held because a number of cyclo drivers recently gave the Vietnamese rickshaw a bad name by pestering tourists, overcharging and general bad behavior, according to Nguyen Thi Kinh, director of the Hue Humanitarian Education Center.

Kinh had raised the money to hold the class via donations.

On Sunday, more than 350 cyclo drivers in the central city took half a day off to attend the class, which started with a breathing control exercise.

The drivers sat leisurely with their eyes closed in the silence.

Le Ngoc Thao, an associate professor at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), the founding college of the University of Hawai'i, said the point was to help cyclo drivers put themselves at ease.

To make ends meet, the drivers are usually forced to compete, and they can easily forget they are often the first Vietnamese people that foreigners will encounter when they set foot in the country, Thao explained.

Lecturer Le Kim Phuong said Hue's cyclo drivers had in the past been admired by tourists for their knowledge. 

"The image of them reading books while waiting for passengers once created a unique cultural characteristic of Hue," she said.

But the image has now disappeared, she added.

According to Phuong, the drivers need to be trained with basic English skills, communication skills and basic cultural knowledge.

In the long term, they should learn with the support of local tourism authorities, she said.

Pham Van Lau, 69, who has been a cyclo driver for 15 years, said the class helped him and other drivers -- who usually jostled each other for customers to make a living -- find mutual understanding and realized how ugly it is to fight over customers.

He said there are still a large number of cyclo drivers who want to maintain Hue's fine image in the eyes of tourists.

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