According to Quang Ninh Department of Tourism, in the first seven months of 2018, Quang Ninh welcomed over 8.4 million tourists, up 26 per cent year-on-year. The total revenue from tourists reached over $602 million, up 30 per cent year-on-year.
However, the proposal of increasing sightseeing fees of Halong Bay Management Board recently provoked a strong opposition among businesses. Many believe that the fee increases quickly but the services do not improve accordingly. These shortcomings will make Halong Bay a less attractive destination.
Specifically, in early 2017, the fee for staying in Halong Bay was $8.6/night and $15.05/two nights. In April 2017, the fee doubled.
After more than one year of raising the fees, Halong Bay Management Board has recently proposed to increase averagely by $2.15/route. For the routes staying overnight on the Bay, the proposed average increase is expected to be $17.2 to $23.6 per route.
In the light of the proposal, at the regular press conference in July 2018, Quang Ninh People's Committee confirmed that the province has no intention to increase the sightseeing fees.
Speaking to TheLEADER, Luxury Travel's founder Pham Manh Ha said that although Quang Ninh province did not have an intention of increasing the fees, they still showed no sign of opposition to this unreasonable proposal.
According to him, increasing sightseeing fees in Halong Bay is still impulsive. If the fees increase, customers will have to pay almost twice as much as the current fees (not including the cost of meals and accommodation on the boat). Those high fees are unreasonable for a trip.
Even if the fees rise, the Bay is still polluted, garbage is still everywhere, services still do not improve. Besides, visitors to Halong Bay cannot choose the sights as they want; they still have to follow certain routes.
The boats have no other choices than go around the available locations, thus leading to the situation where the beautiful areas are overcrowded while others with equally beautiful scenery are not permitted for sightseeing.
Another shortcoming is the dire shortage of bathing spots. Visitors can only swim and sunbath at Titop beach while thousands of other beautiful beaches in Ha Long is left ignored because of a ban.
"For those who want to spend two or three nights on the Bay, but can only bathe at Titop and spend most of their time on the boats, will they still choose Halong, or even Vietnam, as their destination?" Ha pointed out the issue.
Also, at present, there are no special activities, and the attitude of managers and the staff at some sights is poor.
Tourism needs strict planning
From the perspective of an enterprise, the Luxury Travel's leader thinks the fee increase should be carried out with a strict and detailed plan which has a timeline and a limit. Increasing fees need to go along with changes in environmental issues and service quality.
"Quang Ninh needs to identify its main source of customers to come up with new policies to attract them, and let them enjoy more instead of various bans as now," Ha said.
According to Ha, Quang Ninh should focus on high-spending visitors that call for various services, such as European guests who stay overnight on Halong Bay. To do that, a clean environment, decent facilities and good services are necessary.
Also, visitors should be allowed to follow a journey as they want to maximise their experience as well as to spread out the number of visitors on all routes, avoiding overcrowding in one place.
With poor services despite exorbitant fees compared to other tourist hubs in the region such as Thailand, Vietnam will certainly lose visitors and competitive edges.
According to the founder of Luxury Travel, Quang Ninh should aim at professionalism in planning for tourism. They should listen to businesses and welcome complaints from visitors to improve the shortcomings.