Mekong tours: French band to join Vietnamese singers in trans-Mekong tour
A French band will join a Vietnamese pop star and rock band in a tour along the Mekong River, which will start on June 9.
La Soutis Delinguee (The Twisted Mouse) band, female vocalist Thanh Lam and Trio 666 band will begin their tour in the central province of Binh Thuan, which will be followed by Ho Chi Minh City (June 11), the Mekong delta city of Can Tho (June 15), and the Mekong delta province of An Giang (June 15).
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The repertoire includes 15 songs by the French band, four songs by Thanh Lam and three songs by Trio 666. The groups are scheduled to perform at later dates in,
Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia.
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An Giang promotes delta with Mekong Tourism FestivalThe 2nd Mekong Tourism Festival is set to be held in southern An Giang Province Feb. 23-26 next year to promote the rich tourism potential of the Mekong Delta region.
Chau Doc will be the venue for the art and cultural festival with the participation of art troupes from the Kinh (Viet), Hoa (Chinese), Cham, and Khmer communities in the Mekong Delta. In addition, fashions show will feature Tan Chau silk, a, traditional handicraft indigenous to An Giang Province.
The Mekong Tourism Festival is scheduled to be held in the 13 Mekong Delta provinces on a rotating basis every two years.
More than 6.85 million foreigners had visited Vietnam so far this year by the end of November, of which 4.2 million came for tourism purposes.
If imposed, the levy is expected to render revenues of more than $20 million a year, as each tourist stays for three days on an average.
Loc, director of Lac Hong Voyages, said three days per stay is a short time considering the average five-day stay in Thailand. He said only 30 percent of tourists visit Vietnam for a second time.
“Instead of increasing the average number of days a tourist stays in Vietnam and working on how to attract their second visit, Vietnam is creating another barrier for international visitors by imposing the levy,” he said.
Where’s the money?
Even if the fee is imposed, experts suspect tourism promotion will still be hindered by the ineffective management of spending endemic to Vietnam. They say it is unclear where the extra funding will go.
Bui Cao Son, director of Cruise Ha Long Company, said when the VNAT discussed the tourism tax in April, it was unable to explain how the funds would be managed, supervised and used.
“That is unclear and lack of transparency,” he said.
Son said Quang Ninh Province has repeatedly increased tourism fees for the world-renowned Ha Long and Bai Tu Long bays but the quality of these places has not been improved.
“Toilets are filthy and many destinations, Sapa tour, , polluted,” he said.
According to the latest plan, visitors to Ha Long Bay will pay VND200,000 ($9.5) for a “sleep-over” fee, in addition to the prices of boat tickets and room fees, starting from next month.
“In 2013, around 3 million international tourists visited Ha Long and the province collected up to $84 million in revenues, not including revenue, Voyage vietnam, , domestic tourists. Where has the money gone as Ha Long Bay’s destinations continue to deteriorate?” Son said.
Robert Tan, a Singaporean tourism expert, also argued that charging $1 per day for international tourists could be seen as discrimination compared to domestic tourists.
Out of focus
If Vietnam is to go ahead with the fee, it must ensure, Sapa tours, , in spending the money and take many more concrete actions to improve the country’s attractiveness to foreign tourists, experts said.
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Kenneth Atkinson, head of the Vietnam Business Forum’s Tourism Working Group, said this tax was first mooted by his working group and the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam as an idea for, Ha Giang tours, , available spending for destination marketing.
“However what’s imperative in this is transparent collection and control over the funds and how they are spent to ensure they are not wasted,” he told Vietweek.
“This also has to be matched against our requests for the authorities to reexamine Vietnam’s visa policy and in particular its lack of an [effective] visa-on-arrival policy and the increased costs of visas,” he added.
He said Vietnam needs to strategically focus on target markets and sectors rather than the current approach which seems to spread the money too thin over too many markets and sectors.
“We are losing ground to our neighbors like Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia who are all seeing a much bigger growth in tourism arrivals than Vietnam,” he said.
Experts say Vietnam offers travelers a rich and broad experience thanks to its natural beauty and the friendly nature of the Vietnamese people, not because authorities have managed the tourism sector well.
“The problems is that most of what is good about Vietnam as a travel destination happens in spite of, rather than because of, good management and leadership,” said Mark Bowyer, a tourism expert who founded Travel Indochina and runs the website www.rustycompass,com.
Tim Russell, a Briton who lived and worked in Vietnam for 10 years and is now the director of sales and marketing of a travel agency in Thailand, said if VNAT needs extra money for promotion, they should discuss this with immigration authorities and use some of the “inflated” visa fees for this purpose.
“Given the recent hike in visa fees, making visas in Vietnam nearly twice as expensive as Cambodia and Laos, I think visitors are already being charged enough,” he said.
Tourists also complain that when they go to Cambodia or Laos, they can simply turn up and pay $25 on arrival while Vietnam charges almost double at $45 for a 30-day or 90-day single entry visa, the most expensive in the region.
The Vietnam Business Forum, a consortium of international and local business associations and chambers of commerce, said in its annual report released recently that there has been “no progress” in ushering in a transparent, open, and effective visa-on-arrival system in Vietnam.
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