Tour guides are subject to the Government’s VND26 trillion support package which aims to help Covid-19-hit businesses and people. However, unclear requirements have may have caused the package to be inaccessible to thousands of tour guides.
Under the Prime Minister’s Decision 23/2021 dated July 7, tour guides can receive VND3.71 million each in financial support once.
In order to access the financial support, tour guides need a tour guide card granted prior to May 1, 2021 that is still valid, and a labor contract with travel firms or firms that provide tour guide services, or they need to be members of tour guide associations and were assigned by tourism site management organizations or individuals.
Tour guides who need support have to submit their applications to local tourism departments that grant tour guide cards prior to January 31, 2022.
As such, at least two requirements need to be satisfied – 1/ valid tour guide card and 2/ labor contracts with travel firms, or membership in tour guide associations. Except the first requirement (tour guide card), the other requirements are a problem for both freelancers and tour guides who have labor contracts with travel firms.
For freelancers, the risk of not being able to access the support package is extremely high.
Tour guides are required to have labor contracts with travel firms that are valid from January 1, 2020 to the date of application submission.
According to Truong Anh Thuong, a freelance tour guide, travel firms have two kinds of contracts – long-term contracts and short-term contracts with pay per tour.
As for the latter, labor contracts are just valid for 1-10 days. After completing tours, tour guides have to give back the labor contracts and bills to travel firms to get payment.
Meanwhile, inbound tour guides, or those who receive inbound travelers served foreign travelers the last time in March 2020. How can they show valid labor contracts?
Up to 90 percent of travel firms in the large cities of Hanoi and HCM City have suspended their operation.
“It is inconvenient to contact travel firms for labor contracts, because the travel firms serving inbound travelers have suspended operation or have been in hibernation. The officers of the firms have shifted to other business,” said Tran Cong Trung, a freelance Italian speaking tour guide.
The phrase ‘having a labor contract’ is also unclear. Do tour guides need to show long-term labor contracts, or short-term labor contracts with pay per tours, fixed-term or indefinite-term labor contracts with insurance premium payment?
Thuong said when he asked the travel firm where he signed labor contracts , he was told that only those who have labor contracts (firms signing with tour guides and paying insurance premium), or members of tour guide associations are eligible for support access.
The online database about tour guides of VNAT (the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism) showed that by 2020, before Covid-19 broke out, Vietnam had 28,000 tour guides. Thuong estimates that only 10 percent of them had signed contracts with travel firms (regular members of personnel), while the remaining 90 percent are freelance tour guides.
|The online database about tour guides of VNAT (the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism) showed that by 2020, before Covid-19 broke out, Vietnam had 28,000 tour guides.|
Most freelance tour guides are hired to work as collaborators for travel firms and work under short-term labor contracts. If they are not members of tour guide associations, this mean that they won’t get support. Meanwhile, associations are the ‘playing fields’ which gather tour guides on a voluntary basis.
However, tour guides themselves admitted that the strict requirements are necessary.
Le Van Duc, an experienced freelance tour guide, said that the requirements will help exclude thousands of tour guides who have tour guide cards but don’t practice in reality. These people no longer work as tour guides, but they still keep the cards. They could be office workers, tour coordinators and tour sellers of travel firms, or officials of management agencies. If these people also get support, the state’s money will go to the wrong addresses.
Trung agreed that it would be unfair for tour guides with real career practice if the people who just stay in office can also receive support. However, he said that the information about tour guides is shown on the website and database of VNAT, while travel firms have to report about the tours they sell, the names of tour guides and numbers of cards. Therefore, it is easy to control.
The HCM City Tour Guide Association has informed its members about the procedures the members need to follow to get the support of VND3.71 million. However, state agencies have stopped receiving applications and certifying documents during the social distancing time.
A vaccine passport is a new concept mentioned by many countries to open borders.
Workers forced to take unpaid leave from 15 days to below one month would receive VND1.85 million ($80.4) per person, and VND3.71 million ($161.23) if taking an unpaid leave of over one month.