Unlicensed travel firms in Vietnam mushrooming

Under the current laws, the foreign invested tourism firms in Vietnam are not allowed to provide domestic and outbound travel services. However, they still have been doing this, in front of the watchdog agency.

In July 2013, local newspapers reported the breaking news that Travel Life firm left 701 Vietnamese travelers uncared for in Thailand.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s inspectors later concluded that the firm committed 8 mistakes, of which the most serious was the operation without license for international travel.

The HCM City People’s Committee then released the decision on impose the fine of VND92 million on Travel Life. However, the decision on the punishment could not reach Nguyen Thi Kim Khanh, the firm’s director, because she has disappeared.

Most recently, a travel firm headquartered in district 10 in HCM City, has also reportedly disappeared, bringing with itself the sum of hundreds of millions of dong paid by the travelers booking tours to Thailand and Phu Quoc Island.

The firm is allowed to provide domestic tours only, but it has been organizing tours abroad as well.

Ironically, other travel firms have the licenses for international tourism services, but they only do one thing – booking hotel rooms in Vietnam for foreign inbound tourists under the agreements with foreign partners.

On August 18, 2013, the inspectors discovered a group of 56 Chinese travelers at a hotel on Ky Dong Street in HCM City, including Nong Wei, Chinese nationality, who was the tour guide.

The group of tourists went to Vietnam under a contract signed with a Chinese travel firm, which then cooperated with the Vietnamese Thao Nguyen Trade and Tourism to organize the tour.

The Sao Bac International Tourism and Construction Company in district 3 was imposed the fine of VND12.5 million and forced to stop providing international tourism services for three months.

The company was only in charge of booking hotel rooms for the South Korean partners, while the other services, from the bus to tour guide, were arranged by the foreign partners.

Trade deficit in tourism warned

According to Deputy Chair of the Vietnam Tourism Association (VITA) Vu The Binh, about 3.5 million Vietnamese went traveling abroad in 2012, who spent roughly $3.5 billion.

The figure would be 4 million travelers in 2013, if noting that the annual growth rate is 20 percent per annum. As such, if every person spends $1,000, then $4 billion in foreign currencies went abroad.

Analysts have noted that while the inbound market has been growing by 10 percent, the outbound market has been growing by 20 percent. This means that the outbound market would catch up with the inbound market just in some years. After that, Vietnam may witness the trade deficit in tourism, which means the money foreigners spend in Vietnam would be smaller than the money Vietnamese bring abroad.