“While tourism is currently a leading sector and a cash cow in other nations, the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism remains negligent and inactive in promoting national tourism,” commented Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyễn Thanh Sơn in a recent interview with Tuổi Trẻ.
“The VNAT should accept the truth and learn from its mistakes, rather than repeatedly denying its responsibility with fallacies,” he said, referring to the recent scandal in which VNAT presented a photo featuring a Chinese landscape in front of its booth at a travel fair in Berlin.
As the issue affects the national image, VNAT should learn a serious lesson from its fault in order to remain respected by the public, he added.
Sơn has long been working in the tourism and culture sector, and is now the chairman of the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese, which launches frequent programs to promote the country to the world.
“The VNAT has failed to appropriately fulfill its duty in many aspects, which accordingly hinders the country’s tourism development, despite its potential,” he stated.
Son said local tourism authorities have always been “negligent when it comes to attending international travel fairs, and poorly-prepared for the Vietnamese weeks in other countries.”
“What they brought to the Vietnamese week in Berlin last year was only two computers, a bundle of brochures, and two female attendants,” he said.
“I was so ashamed of the Vietnamese booth that I had to take the Berlin mayor to visit another stand,” he recalled.
“Bored,” “upset,” and “ashamed” are the emotions local tour organizers described when following VNAT to travel exhibitions and fairs in other countries.
The VNAT booths at such fairs are always the worst there, they said, referring to the poor images on display and the boring brochures it delivered to international guests.
“The VNAT booth at the international travel fairs over the last few years looked just like a grocery store with a bundle of old, ugly tourism publications,” said Phạm Hà, director of Hà Nội-based Luxury Travel.
Despite its role, the VNAT fails to determine what the strengths and unique features of Vietnamese tourism are that should be introduced to global tourists, he said.
While as many as ten luxury hotels are built in Việt Nam on an annual basis, none of the VNAT publications tell tourists about this information, he added.
The VNAT attends some 12 to 15 international fairs in England, France, Russia, Germany, Spain, Japan, China, and Singapore every year, with each trip costing up to VND600 million (US$28,846), according to Vũ Thế Bình, former head of the VNAT’s travel department.
“There is not yet a professional plan for promoting the country’s tourism,” said Bình, who is now deputy chairman of the Việt Nam Tourism Association.
During each trip to an international fair, the VNAT officials spend most of their time reserving a place in the delegation and completing necessary procedures to take part.
“No one cares about how they will set up their stands at the fair, and what they will introduce to international tourists because they all consider this a chance to travel abroad,” Bình bitterly concluded.