“The tourism agencies have done a lot to introduce the capital city to international tourists, but city authorities reversed all their hard work without thinking of the consequences,” said Vu The Binh, head of caravan tourism department at the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
VNAT head Nguyen Van Tuan said the agency had asked the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to ask the Hanoi People’s Committee, the municipal government, to solve the problem.
“The decision would obstruct tourism and has frustrated tourism firms,” he said, adding that companies were strongly opposing the move.
According to the decision issued by the Hanoi People’s Committee, which was announced on January 19, all buses of 25 seats and above as well as trucks of one ton and above will be banned from driving on 50 streets in central Hanoi. The ban that will take effect from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from February 2-28, aims to ease traffic overload during Tet (Lunar New Year) that falls on February 14.
“Most of the blocked streets are located around the old quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. It would surely create difficulties for tourists who want to see these places,” said Vu Duy Vu, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City-based tourism biggie Saigontourist. “Others are thoroughfares to the downtown area and the ban would obstruct the arrival of tourists.”
Pham Xuan Du, director of the HCMC’s Xuan Nam Tourism Company, said he was really upset by the decision.
“My partners abroad are extremely frustrated. They asked us why we hadn’t informed them earlier so that they could cancel the booked tours,” he said.
“Such a difficult tour will be the target of complaints from tourists and will also hurt tourism agencies and the image of Vietnam,” Du added.
Nguyen Kien Cuong, director of Tuan Minh Tourism Company in Hanoi, also said tourism firms would suffer under the ban.
“For example, a 45-seater carrying tourists from Noi Bai Airport will have to stop at the Gia Lam District where tourists will be separated into four groups and put in smaller vans before continuing the journey,” he said. “This is not including a minivan to carry their luggage.”
“Tourism firms will have to incur more costs and we’ll lost prestige,” he said.
Many tourism firms said they were rushing to find small buses to replace their big buses to carry tourists to the city center. However, they said it was really difficult to find the vehicles on such short notice, and with Tet just around the corner, vehicle owners are charging double or triple the usual rates.
“Moreover, only low-quality buses are available and tourists will hate that,” a director of a tourism firm in Hanoi said.
Many tourism agencies have also complained that they will have to assign more tour guides than usual due to smaller groups of tourists.