Quang Ninh’s vice chair Do Thong assigned the local Department of Transport to combine with the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism to implement the plan on painting all tourist boats in white and install brown sails on these boats in the first three months of 2012.
An official from the Quang Ninh Department of Transport said that this measure aims to strengthen state management over tourist transport activities in Halong Bay, and to make a facelift for tourist boats after Halong Bay is recognized as one of the new seven natural wonders of the world.
Under this policy, more than 500 tourist boats in Halong Bay may ‘wear’ white uniform and brown sail in the near future. However, the proposal is not backed by ship owners. The Halong Tourist Boat Association has expressed its disagreement to the local authorities.
Director of the Bai Tho Transportation Company, Pham Van Hoa, said that the brown color of tourist boats in Halong Bay has become “tradition.” Tourists like this color so it is unnecessary to change.
Hoa said white color is only suitable to big iron boats or cruise ships, not wood boats like those in Halong Bay. Moreover, boat owners do not want to pay for this task. With nearly 20 boats, Hoa’s company will have to spend VND1 billion ($50,000) for repainting their boats.
“We will have to obey the authorities’ decision but I think that boats will return to their color after several months,” Hoa said.
Doan Van Dung, chief of the Halong Tourist Boat Association, said that Ha Long tourist boats will lose their characteristics with the white color. This color is not close to Oriental culture like the current color of brown. Moreover, transport firms will have to pay a lot of money to re-pain their boats.
“The cost for repainting a boat is around VND30-40 million ($1,500-$2,000) and the necessary time is up to 3-4 months. Before making decision, the authorities must consult the opinion of tourists and travel firms,” Dung added.
Dao Hong Thuong, deputy director of Vietsky Travel, is surprised with the information, saying that each tourist boat has its own style so it is unsuitable to force all boats have the same color.