Enterprises fret over Halong Bay entrance fees
HCMC – The government of Quang Ninh has informed Halong Bay entrance fees from this April onwards will be based on routes rather than destinations, causing concern that the costs tourists have to bear will shoot up.
The entrance fees will be calculated according to five tourist routes that start from the wharf. For the five final destinations of Van Canh Park, the caves and caverns, the marine culture conservation center, the marine leisure center and Gia Luan Harbor, the fees will be VND250,000, VND250,000, VND200,000, VND200,000 and VND250,000 per visitor respectively.
Tourists wishing to stay overnight will have to pay a charge ranging from VND500,000 to VND750,000 depending on the routes and the length of their stay.
Currently, tourists to Halong Bay pay the general entrance fee of VND120,000 per person, and an additional VND30,000-50,000 for each of the destinations they choose from the list of 19. The rate for an overnight stay is VND200,000.
Businesses believe the new way of charging is unreasonable, making the actual costs for tourists to Halong Bay to increase sharply, or even double from the current levels. Many travel companies and foreign shipping lines are lodging their complaints.
In addition, the fee hikes will go into force in just three months, giving tour operators little time to renegotiate the costs of the contracts they signed with travel companies at home and abroad a year ago or more.
A boat tour operator in Halong Bay said a two-day-one-night trip that takes in two destinations in the chargeable list would cost some VND460,000 each.
Tourists do not often choose their destinations on the same route as the new regulations of the province, but may select one destination from this route and one other from another route. Thus, from April 1 onwards, if going on the same journey as now, tourists must pay twice as much.
“The cost for two people will be up to VND1.5 million, equal to the rate of staying in a 3-star inland hotel for two, while visitors are not offered any extra services. This is unreasonable,” said the tour operator.
This businesswoman said she was having a hard time dealing with the contracts with foreign partners, because some of them would be executed this year though having been signed in 2015.
A number of travel companies in HCMC have similar comments, saying the fee hikes announced by Quang Ninh are out of the blue, spelling great trouble for them. In other tourist destinations, such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a fee increase is often announced two years in advance.
Bui Viet Thuy Tien, managing director of Asian Trails, said that despite the financial aid offered by a number of boat owners in Halong Bay, travel companies with the already-signed contracts would still have to shoulder part of the fee hike. Then, this increase will be factored in their tour prices.
“Constant price hikes will make a destination less competitive. I think it is unreasonable to collect wharf entrance fees from tourists. To attract visitors to the bay, there must be a wharf. This is what a tourist destination must have. Why should there be extra charges?” she said.
Phan Xuan Anh, chairman of Viet Excursions, a unit specializing in catering to international cruise ships, said he was having a headache with the fee hike decision. Many shipping lines have responded unfavorably to this decision and said they might consider changing their destinations if there were further fee increases.
“Halong Bay is a brand to attract visitors. Therefore, this brand should be promoted as a highlight to lure visitors to travel to and spend, rather than getting engrossed in charging their visit,” he said.