Foreign tour guides work illegally on poor governance

The Saigon Times | Mon, Jul 11, 2016 09:20:46 AM Share this on

A lack of coordination among government agencies has created fertile ground for foreign temporary visitors to illegally work as tour guides in Vietnam to serve travelers from their home countries, including China, local travel firms have said.

Travel firms pointed out the problem after certain Chinese tour guides were found to illegally work at popular destinations in central Vietnam, including Danang City and Khanh Hoa Province. Some of them even distorted Vietnam’s historical facts as reported by local media.

Luu Duc Ke, general director of Hanoitourist, said temporary visitors from China and South Korea who work illegally as tour guides have been spotted across the country for years. He called for immigration and labor management authorities to join hands with tourism officials to tackle this problem.

Ke told the Daily that the existing regulations are lax. Flexible travel plans and itineraries mean some tourists can easily violate Vietnam’s labor regulations while they are here, he added.

Vietnam needs to tighten supervision at airports, Ke suggested, citing the U.S. immigration rules as an example.

“U.S. border officers can ask visitors about their travel plans or hotel bookings. Unsatisfactory answers will lead them to be denied entry or purchase tours before they are allowed in,” Ke said.

Nguyen Van Thanh, vice chairman of the Nha Trang-Khanh Hoa Tourism Association, agreed that there is a lack of effective collaboration among Vietnamese agencies. Tourism, immigration and labor authorities should join forces to effectively manage international visitors, including Chinese, as the tourism authority lacks staff to do this.

Thanh noted it is difficult to fine violators if there is no clear evidence, including video footage that shows they work illegally as tour guides.  

Thanh said another root cause of the problem is the inadequate number of Chinese-speaking Vietnamese tour guides, which provides an incentive for illegal services to grow.

Nha Trang, a favorite beach destination in Khanh Hoa Province, welcomes around 1,000 Chinese tourists a day, according to official statistics.

Most of these Chinese visitors cannot speak English and require Chinese-speaking guides.

But the local tourism department has licensed only ten Vietnamese guides for the job so far, Thanh said, blaming strict qualification requirements for the woefully low number.

The province needs 500 more Chinese-speaking guides to meet the demand, he said, proposing a new temporary tour guide license of three to six months.

Over 1.2 million Chinese nationals visited Vietnam in the first half of 2016, up 48% from the same period last year. They made up a fourth of the total foreign arrivals in the period.

Chinese tourists to Danang City almost reached 212,000 in the January-June period, a year-on-year jump of 83%. The city has 360 licensed Chinese-speaking tour guides.

Source: The Saigon Times