Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Foreigners outraged by $6 fee for entrance to Vietnam’s Hoi An old town

Since early last week, waves of angry reactions have been spreading like wildfire on tourism forums, foreign websites and social networks regarding the US$6 entrance fee recently imposed on international visitors if they are to enter UNESCO-recognized Hoi An old town in central Vietnam.
Two years ago, Hoi An authorities began charging tourists on visiting certain scenic spots within the town, located in Quang Nam Province.
Domestic tourist was required to pay VND60,000 ($3) for entrance to every three spots. Foreign visitors were then charged VND120,000 ($6) for every six spots.  
Last year, the rate for local visitors was raised to VND80,000 ($4) for every four spots, while that for foreigners remained the same.
However, management was quite loose, so few tourists had to pay the fee.
Since April 1 this year, the authorities have collected $4 and $6 entrance fees from domestic and foreign tourists, respectively, when they want to access the famous old town.
New ticket booths are now put up at every entrance to the old town, with attendants working hard to make sure that no tourists can “sneak” into the place without an admission fee.
One of the attendants explained that such strict control is a must as many tour guides have purposefully evaded buying tickets for their tourists.
According to Mai Thanh Tuan, a local and freelance tour guide, many ticket attendants have behaved inappropriately towards tourists who forget or refuse to buy tickets, which have added to tourists’ vexation.
 Hoi An – a ghost city in the future?
The new fees have aroused anger among foreigners and domestic tourists since early last week.
They have indignantly blasted the move on many foreign forums and social networks, including world-leading tourism website TripAdvisor.
Most comments on expats’ Facebook pages have slammed the fee collection and predicted that the town will soon become a ghost city with this outrageous policy.
Andrew Lancer wondered on his Facebook what the effect of the move will be like and what would happen if most peddlers and shop owners desert the town due to poor sales.
Many foreigners just love taking a stroll along the town’s streets or go to restaurants or bars there, not necessarily going sightseeing. So they are really frustrated by the new fee policy.
Many have even started boycotting the town, a World Heritage Site with its buildings being a unique blend of local and foreign influences.
UNESCO has cited the town as an example of a well-preserved Southeast Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries.
An expat Facebooker recently posted photos of the town, which is deserted of tourists in its “peak hours” in stark contrast to the previously packed sight.
Even locals and tour guides have also expressed their strong disapproval of the fee policy, which has backfired.
Vo Phung, director of the Hoi An Culture, Sports Center, told Tuoi Trethat his office has just convened a meeting with 17 officials and four standby ticket attendants, requesting them to behave politely towards tourists.
Nguyen Su, Secretary of the Hoi An City Party Committee, acknowledged that tourists and local and foreign media have phoned him repeatedly regarding the matter.
He has instructed concerned agencies to look closely into the matter so that the local government will call a meeting to discuss ways to deal with it.
“We did impose the fee policy before, but control has been much tighter since early this month. I think it’s the ticket attendants’ offensive behaviors, not the fees, that hurt tourists,” he stressed.


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