"Bad rap haunts Vietnam despite tourism boom"

I was interviewed for this 31.12.19 VNExpress International article by Quy Nguyen about some challenges facing the tourism industry in Viet Nam. Below is the entire interview. The phrase “bad rap” indicates that the reputation is undeserved when, in fact, these are all legitimate and, in some cases, critical issues.

As an expat living in Vietnam for years, do you think about these issues that have been hindering the country’s tourism development?

Many tourists can do a better job of preparing themselves for a visit to Viet Nam by taking advantage of informative and reliable online resources. For example, while Viet Nam is generally a very safe country, there are occasional drive-by purse or bag snatchings, more in HCMC than in Hanoi, I would say. The advice is simple. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, keep valuables in your hotel safe, and carry your bag away from the street. The robbers, usually two guys on a motorbike, one driving and the other the “lookout,” have a total disregard for human life and have no qualms about injuring or even killing someone just to steal a smartphone, money, or whatever is in the bag of their victim. Or something as simple as how to navigate Vietnamese traffic, especially in the country’s two major urban centers. All of this information is available online.

Tourist scams and rip-offs remain a major problem in Vietnam for many years and shows no signs of slowing down? Do you think what’s the main reasons for this? Can you give some suggestions for this?

The main reason is ignorance on the part of tourists that scammers are able to easily take advantage of. The more tourists know about these rip-offs and scams, most of which have been around for years and are limited to tourist hotspots, the fewer who will fall victim to them. The overwhelming majority of Vietnamese are friendly and hospitable. That’s one of the memories most foreigners take home with them.

What do you expect about Vietnam’s tourism in coming years (visa issues or the improvement of service quality)?

Viet Nam must come to terms with the national crisis of air and water pollution for the sake of the 97 million Vietnamese who live here and the tourism industry. (It’s no wonder health is now the top concern for the Vietnamese people, according to recent surveys.) This is the responsibility of every citizen, including business owners, and the government, which can enforce existing laws. However, if there’s more sustained international media coverage of this growing problem, fewer tourists will choose Viet Nam as a potential vacation destination. Who wants to swim in a polluted East Sea, stay in a 5-star hotel that happens to be located across the street from an open sewer, or spend time in a city with consistently high levels of air pollution?

FYI, pollution and its potential impact on tourism is something I’ve written about in a few blog posts this year. Here they are in descending chronological order:

Air quality app under ‘coordinated attack’ in Vietnam amid heavy Hanoi smog (15.10.19)

Oh, and the OCT’s claim that the AirVisual ranking would harm tourism in Viet Nam? That’s one possible side effect of air and water pollution not only in Hanoi but other tourist destinations, e.g., Danang. (The point is it’s the POLLUTION that could negatively affect tourism not AirVisual rankings. Duh.) Then there’s the long-term damage that will be done to the health of millions of people, not to mention the environment in which they live, unless these problems are addressed sooner rather than later. Finally, there’s economic development, which will be negatively impacted by pollution.

Keep Viet Nam Beautiful! Gìn giữ Việt Nam tươi đẹp! (13.10.19)

Aside from the importance of maintaining a healthy environment for the sake of the flora and fauna that live in it and the people who consume what it has to offer, there is also tourism, which is ultimately dependent upon a clean and beautiful natural environment, including the water that people swim in.

A Widening Crack in the Wall of Viet Nam’s Tourism Industry? (11.8.19)

Here’s the bottom line, quite literally: If the county, at the local, provincial, and national level, does not solve the pollution problem, word will (continue to) spread that the beaches are dirty and the water is polluted, which means tourists will begin to look elsewhere for a quality vacation. Hotel occupancy rates will plummet and restaurants and other ancillary business will see fewer customers.

Shalom (שלום), MAA