After a period of inactivity, zero-dong tours are bouncing back
Thousands of Chinese travelers were seen entering Vietnam across the border gate recently on one day in early December. Most of them were middle aged.
Within one hour, 20 buses carrying passengers were seen travelling from the border gate to Thuong Truong Phuong Dong, a shop nearby.
According to Nguyen Vinh Linh, director of a travel firm in Quang Ninh province, this is the first activity of zero-dong tours. The schedule of the travelers had been set by Chinese travel firms.
In general, travelers go to 8-10 shopping points. The remaining time is reserved for sleeping and visiting Ha Long Bay.
“There are no children in groups of tourists because they are not welcomed by the shops. If they bring children, Chinese travelers will have to pay high fee, about 600 yuan per person,” Linh explained.
|At Ha Long Bay, the Tuan Chau International Tourism Port is always overloaded, with tourism boats running at full capacity and tourism spots flooded with Chinese.|
One of the buses stopped at a street rice shop in Hai Lang commune in Tien Yen district. There was a dining table with rice, vegetables and peanuts waiting for travelers. A worker at the shop said it was the menu designed for zero-dong tour travelers. If they want better meals, they have to pay more money.
At Ha Long Bay, the Tuan Chau International Tourism Port is always overloaded, with tourism boats running at full capacity and tourism spots flooded with Chinese.
At Hung Duong Thang Long Shop located in Ha Long Marina Plaza shopping mall, travelers are shown a film in Chinese which shows the function and value of aloewood. The shop also sells rubber cushions, priced from several million dong to tens of millions of dong.
Nguyen Van D, a worker at a shop specializing in Chinese travelers, admitted the prices are ‘exorbitant’.
There are Chinese people at these shops who guide the Chinese visitors. The travelers pay for products through WeChat apps.
“The goods they purchase will be carried to China, i.e. the money Chinese travelers pay here will flow back to China, uncontrolled by Vietnamese agencies,” D said.
Representatives of some travel firms said that eliminating zero-dong tours was an impossible mission.
Tran Nhuan Vinh, chair of the Quang Ninh Tour Guides Association, noted that zero-dong tours bring profit to the locality from Ha Long Bay excursion fees and other kinds of services.
To improve management, Vinh said it is necessary to tighten control over the shops serving Chinese travelers.