Budget and zero-dong tours in need of tighter control

Budget and zero-dong tours in Vietnam are in need of tighter control from local authorities and relevant agencies as they are showing signs of fraud, tax evasion and sales of products without clear origins to tourists.

Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), mentioned this measure in Lao Dong newspaper. Such tours could adversely affect the image of popular destinations across the country as well as visitors’ interests in the long run, he noted.

Addressing a regular press briefing of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, held on October 16, Tuan voiced concerns over the drawbacks of zero-dong tours, such as selling fake goods, overcharging and fraud.

These budget or zero-dong tours remain in operation because of self-contained retail stores that are inclined toward committing fraud. Aside from low-cost tours, these stores are secretly backed by foreigners working in cooperation with local partners, including tour operators and tour guides, according to the head of VNAT.

Apart from this, tourists accepting zero-dong tours make payments through online transactions using point of sales machines, by scanning QR codes or by using payment apps on smartphones, bypassing the Vietnamese banking system. Thus, these payment forms violate the prevailing laws on management of and payment using foreign currency in the country.

Due to the free-of-charge tours, travel agencies have struggled to earn more revenue to set off tour operation costs by offering relevant extra services that are excluded from tour packages. Incomes from services are not properly managed, allowing sales and tax contributions to become uncontrollable as a consequence, stated Tuan.

To prevent and address fraudulent low-cost or zero-dong tours, Tuan suggested local authorities pay more attention, conduct regular inspections of retail stores to check product quality and origin and prohibit them from carrying out illegal transactions, evading tax contributions or illegally transferring money overseas.

Further, the competent agencies should impose heavy fines or withdraw the business licenses of travel firms or tour guides caught committing violations in the travel business and negatively affecting visitors’ interests, Tuan added.

VNAT’s job is to cooperate with the competent agencies to address violations, but it does not have the authority to tackle these problems alone, Tuan said.

The latest data showed that international tourists to Vietnam in January-September totaled nearly 11.7 million, up 22.9% year-on-year, while local visitors accounted for an estimated 62 million arrivals. Local and foreign tourists have helped the country earn more than VND450 trillion in revenue, up 20% versus last year.

According to a report on SGT