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Tour scandal raises questions

 VietNamNet Bridge – Last week, more than 700 Vietnamese people were left stranded in the middle of a MICE (Meeting-Incentive-Conventions-Exhibition) tour in Bangkok.

VietNamNet Bridge – Last week, more than 700 Vietnamese people were left stranded in the middle of a MICE (Meeting-Incentive-Conventions-Exhibition) tour in Bangkok.

Agency questioned after travelers left stranded in Thailand

700 Vietnamese tourists abandoned in Thailand


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They were among 3,000 agents of the multi-level marketing company Herbalife who had gone to participate in the company's regional seminar in Bangkok.

The visitors had to pay their own travel costs, as the relevant travel agency in Viet Nam, Travel Life Company, did not pay the total amount it owed to its Thai partner, Thai 2020.

The scandal was finally settled by the Government and tourism sector, all visitors returned home and Travel Life committed to refunding the money after receiving an administrative fine of VND80 million (nearly US$4,000).

But the question remains whether the tourism management sector, travel agencies and visitors have learned any lessons from the scandal.

The Vietnamese visitors bought a cheap tour from a travel agency without a licence for overseas travel. They did not do much research into the agency's functions, abilities and reputation. As a result, their trip was ruined.

One visitor said he had initially paid VND13.2 million (US$630) for himself and his daughter to go on the trip. But he then had to pay VND20 million more for expenses.

Additionally, Travel Life promised that visitors would stay in a three-star hotel, but in fact, they were placed in a cheap hostel, he said. And the agency promised that they would visit many sites which were then cut out of the tour programme.

"It was a terrible visit for me. Now, I fear cheap tours very much," he said.

Duong Xuan Binh, a Ha Noi resident, pointed out that cheap tours were not inherently bad, as most travel agencies offer promotional packages to attract customers.

"I only buy cheap tours from prestigious travel agencies that I know as they will ensure a good tour, including a good hotel, meals, tour guide and travel programme," said Binh.

Binh also advised customers to carefully check the quality of an agency by looking at customer feedback on the internet before buying a tour.

Nguyen Van Dinh, a tour guide, said that the scandal was a good lesson for travel agencies as well as consumers.

"Travel agencies, please do not sign a contract without thinking about the costs. This will make you lose your customers, your brand name and tourism trademark," Dinh warned.

Commercial manager Nguyen Tien Dat of the TransViet Tourism Company said people should be wary of cheap tours advertised by travel agencies. A cheap tour means cheap services, and customers are always the ones to suffer.

Viet Nam has nearly 1,000 outbound registered companies, of which around 60 operate well and follow legal regulations, according to the National Administration of Tourism. This figure shows that weak state management has led to unhealthy competition and alarmingly poor services.

"Unlicensed travel agencies are very common in Ha Noi and HCM City," said Viet Nam Tourism Association deputy chairman Vu The Binh. "People usually only pay attention to tour costs and forget to research the travel agency. It's important to choose agencies with full qualifications and a good reputation and be cautious of cheap tours."

Binh also stressed that loose management of travel agencies would hurt Viet Nam's image abroad.

At a recent online conference on improving the tourism environment, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan stressed that customer satisfaction should be the industry's top priority.

It is obvious that tourism management units have not been able to manage the sector properly. So while waiting for active changes from the tourism industry, travellers should be aware about the necessity of protecting themselves from risk.

Source: VNS

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