Local catering service providers have objected to a draft circular prepared by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which states that a restaurant can only be recognized as a standard one for international visitors if it can accommodate at least 50 guests at a time and accept credit cards as a payment option.
Guests are seen at a Starbucks café in HCMC in this file photo. Many tour operators and restaurateurs have objected to tentative regulations on restaurants serving international visitors
Travel firms say such new criteria will make life harder for both tour operators and catering service providers, and that the ministry should attend to more important issues such as price control and food safety, according to Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper.
The draft circular – meant to provide guidance for implementing the Law on Tourism – is passed around by the ministry for comment. The more controversial points in the draft are requirements that restaurants must have at least 50 seats and accept credit card payments if they are to serve tourists.
The new regulations are aimed at raising the quality of tourism service providers to meet higher demand of visitors. However, the ministry states that such rules will not impose any new burden on restaurateurs because such recognition is optional, not compulsory.
Many voices are against the tentative move though.
According to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), the regulation that requires restaurants to provide at least 50 seats is unreasonable as the number of seats does not reflect service quality. Even some large restaurants offer fewer than 50 seats because they want customers to have more space while dining there.
Besides, the regulation is baseless as there is no evidence that groups of foreign tourists visiting Vietnam consist of 50 or more people on average.
Competent agencies should evaluate restaurants based on their ability to satisfy demands of international tourists, especially those without tour guides, according
to VCCI. If restaurants have menus in English and proper restrooms and ensure food safety, they should be recognized as eligible.
In HCMC and Hanoi, the number of restaurants which can provide at least 50 seats is modest as most of them are narrow and located close together.
A restaurant on Bui Vien walking street in District 1, HCMC, for example, can accommodate only 25-30 customers but tourists including foreigners prefer it due to its delicious dishes and ideal location.
Many enterprises also disagreed with a regulation asking them to accept credit card payments as credit cards are not as popular as ATM cards in Vietnam while international tourists do not tend to use credit cards to pay for low-cost services like catering. Point of sale (POS) terminals of shopping and catering service providers are not used frequently as well.
If restaurants are recognized to meet standards, they can effectively compete with others. However, unreasonable and compulsory regulations will create an unfair business environment for small restaurants with good services.
Tran Thi Bao Thu, director of marketing and communications at Fiditour, was quoted by Nguoi Lao Dong as saying that the two regulations are meant to improve the quality of restaurants but they should be applied in accordance with specific conditions of destinations. She proposed the ministry focus more on service prices and food safety.
Phan Xuan Anh, chairman of Du Ngoan Viet Travel Company, told the newspaper that he opposed the controversial regulations, saying they are unnecessary.
Meanwhile, Tran The Dung, deputy director of Young Generation Travel Company, said in the newspaper that the two new rules should be designed to encourage restaurants to improve quality. However, they should not be forced to comply with such regulations as most restaurants in Sapa, for instance, can provide 30-40 seats at a time.
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