‘Zero-Dollar Tours’ For Chinese Could Tarnish Vietnam Tourism Reputation

The Chinese border towards Vietnam

After Thailand and Malaysia, Vietnam tourism authorities start to react to the development of ‘Zero-Dollar Tours’ for Chinese travellers in the country…

Like in Thailand and Malaysia, Vietnam has to face a surge in ‘Zero-Dollar Tours’ specifically aimed to Chinese visitors. The ‘Zero-Dollar Tours’ are mostly offered to Chinese groups travelling to Vietnam by bus to Vietnam through the Northern Border in Quang Ninh province. They pay only for food, tours,  and must visit designated shops for souvenirs. All of those -including currency exchange- are provided at highly inflated prices.

The government last year already launched a cruisade against such tours. However, they need again to watch up the development of such tours as authorities saw a surge of Chinese travellers in recent weeks.

Chinese-sponsored “$0 tours” should be submitted to quality controls while the government would monitor exchange rates and prices at shops in a move to effectively protect visitors and guarantee them that they would not be ripped off.

Last month, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered Quang Ninh authorities to investigate reports of tour scams after Chinese arrivals via the Mong Cai Border Gate jumped to 5,000 per day on week days, and 10,000-15,000 over the weekends, around two to three times higher than usual. But they have been some reports suggesting that ‘Zero-Dollar Tours’ were also largely available in Danang and Nha Trang. The country recorded for the first three months close to one million Chinese visitors, a surge of 63.5 percent from the corresponding period last year, VNAT data showed.

Talking to some local media, Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), explained that “$0 tours” have actually been creating jobs for locals and become a source of income in Vietnam. He explained that these kind of tours are helping keeping business stable during low season months.

The northern province of Quang Ninh earns VND330 billion ($14.6 million) every year from just visa fees and selling tickets to the world-renowned Ha Long Bay to Chinese tourists who arrive by land, Tuan said.

Overall, revenue from Chinese visitors arriving by land generates up to VND1 trillion for Quang Ninh, while some 3,500 locals work in the tourism sector, added VNAT General Director.

VNAT recognizes however that a large number of Chinese tourists on such tours bring also nuisance and public disorder while fostering as well illegal Chinese tours guides.

Shops open only to Chinese tourists will probably be closed while tour operators providing O$ tours might be fined and their business license being revoked.