“It is a huge improvement over what it used to be a couple of years ago when Vietnam just opened its doors to tourism”, confessed a veteran journalist based in Hong Kong, during the recent Mekong Tourism Forum in Danang.
Vietnam has done a lot to improve its tourism industry but more needs to be done. Authorities have been concerned of a very low tourist’s return rate of 5% to 6% compared to 40% to 50% for Thailand. If standards in the industry improve – hotels are cleaner and better managed, food safety improved tremendously while transportation is of good standards- people’s attitude still needs to adjust to travellers expectations.
They have been many complaints from foreign travellers about locals cheating them or trying to scam. There is also for many little ability to make a small gesture to please visitors. It becomes such a national issue that Deputy Minister Vu Duc Dam directed Vietnamese people to smile more, be more polite. “They should consider tourists as their family”, he declared at a ceremony held recently to mark the 55th anniversary of the tourism sector.
“Simple gestures like smiling and saying hello are very important to develop tourism and national culture,” he said. “They leave good impressions on foreigners.”
This is however not the only step to be taken. At a recent seminar organised by the Human Resources Centre, the Viet Nam Institute of Management and the British Council Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City, the director of the project “Strengthening of Human Resources in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry in Viet Nam”, Nguyen Van Luu, indicated that the hospitality sector had now to take steps to improve the quality of personnel due to increase competition from the coming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the end of the year.
From the 700,000 employees working in the country’s hospitality and tourism industry (up by 220,000 compared to 2010), only 7.5% held a bachelor or post-graduate degree. While 60% of them have some knowledge of a foreign language – mostly English, Chinese, French and Japanese, only 15% of them are really fluent in English. The figure is even smaller for other languages.
At the seminar, Jon Glendinning, director of HCMC British Council, cited a survey on tourism in Malaysia, saying that English proficiency could affect hotel choice and satisfaction with their stay.
To be blamed are limited resources to train staff and improve their skills. “It is best to have a national standard framework for human resources in the field. Based on this, training facilities would have suitable curriculum. And the framework would provide criteria on recruitment for enterprises,” said Nguyen Van Luu who suggested that private companies go together to manage training facilities. The Vietnam tourism industry is expected to employ number up to 1.5 million locals by 2030.
(Partial news source: VNS)