Tour operators in Ho Chi Minh City face a severe shortage of multi-lingual guides, the agencies said.
The situation has never been worse, especially for tour guides who can communicate in languages other than English, French and Chinese, they said.
One tour firm manager, who preferred to remain annonymous, said that every time a cruise ship arrives carrying Italian, Spanish or German tourists arrives, "the whole company goes into a frenzy looking for appropriate tour guides."
There're boats bringing 2,000 to 3,000 tourists into the city and each one requires at least 15 tour guides but the company can never find enough, the manager said.
Usually agency guides have to accompany the tourists if they want to travel through the country. When these guides are out, there is no one in the office to accomodate new arrivals.
Vietnam Tourism Law in 2000 complicated the situation by requiring all guides to hold university degrees. Nearly 400 senior international tour guides were let go, he said.
Many of the suspended tour guides began work before 2000 but the law prevented them from renewing their tour guide licenses.
The director of one tour operator in HCMC, who asked to remain nameless, said some of the licensed multi-lingual tour guides have left their companies to work as freelance guides making far better money.
"That has disrupted the business plans of many companies," the director said.
Some agencies have taken big risks by sending uncertified tour guides out to work. They have to worry about random inspections by the authorities.
The HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said that un-certified tour guides could badly affect Vietnam's tourism sector and warned that it would supsend work at firms which are found to employ uncertified guides.
City tourism officials are now urging the Vietnam National Department of Tourism to reconsider its university requirement in order to solve the current shortage of international tour guides.