(VEN) – Authorities are planning to tighten control on budget and so-called “zero-dong tours” to Vietnam, arguing that these generate fraud, tax evasion and sales of products without clear origin.
Cheap tour packages aimed at budget Chinese tourists generally waive transportation and accommodation fees, and then pressure visitors into purchasing products or services at inflated prices while they are in Vietnam.
Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), says more and more visitors come to Vietnam on such tours, which can adversely affect the image of popular destinations across the country as well as visitors’ interests in the long run.
Addressing a recent regular press briefing of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Tuan voiced concerns over the drawbacks of zero-dong tours, such as selling fake goods, overcharging and fraud.
The budget and zero-dong tours keep going because independent retail stores commit fraud. Some are secretly backed by foreigners working in cooperation with local partners, including tour operators and tour guides, according to the head of VNAT.
Tourists on zero-dong tours also make payments through online transactions using point of sales machines, scanning QR codes or using smartphone payment apps, bypassing the Vietnamese banking system and thus violating the laws on management of and payment by foreign currency. The tours also help service providers and retail stores evade taxes.
Nguyen Quy Phuong, Director of VNAT’s Travel Department said budget tours should offer tourists competitive service prices and ensure the interests of operators, airlines and service facilities.
To prevent and address fraudulent low-cost or zero-dong tours, Phuong suggested local authorities and tourism management agencies take drastic and consistent measures. The department discussed with ministries, sectors and localities how to deal with infractions, and many localities not only fined but also withdrew licenses of travel agents, Phuong said.
To protect the interests of visitors and the image of destinations, and ensure budget revenues, VNAT proposed a series of measures. These include improving the sense of responsibility of local governments, increasing control of fraudulent stores, goods quality and payment transactions, preventing tax evasion and illegal money transfer, and fining and even withdrawing licenses of tour operators and tour guides who infract the law.
There has been a surge in Chinese tourism to Vietnam in recent years, with numbers in some areas surpassing those of American and European visitors. In 2017, four million of the 12.9 million visitors to Vietnam hailed from its northern neighbor.
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