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Tourism law updates to improve sector

HCM CITY — After six years of implementation, the Law on Tourism needs to be reviewed and amended to be more practical, according to officials.

The Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has been collecting ideas and contributions from relevant bodies to uncover the flaws of the bill and make it more effective, particularly in the context of increasing international integration.

"Since the introduction of the law on 2006, it has made great contributions to the country's development, but it also has shortcomings which have been arisen along with fast development of the country," said VNAT Vice Chairman Nguyen Manh Cuong, speaking with participants at the conference held yesterday in HCM City to review the law's enforcement.

The tourism sector, which was set up in 1960, began to develop strongly after the introduction of the 1992 Constitution, according to Trinh Xuan Dung, deputy director of VNAT.

The constitution promoted international tourism exchange and encouraged investment in the sector.

"Thousands of tourism companies have been set up, and foreign investment has reached more than US$10 billion since then," he said.

The opening of Viet Nam's economy to the world market in the 1990s, and especially its entry to the World Trade Organisation in 2006, has caused unprecedented growth in the country's travel and tourism sector, according to Cuong.

Last December, the Prime Minister approved a development strategy for Viet Nam's tourism, with an overall target of developing tourism to be a key economic industry by 2020.

It targets at least 7 million international tourists by 2015 and 10 million by 2020. Last year, Viet Nam received 6 million international tourists.

The tourism law was approved in June 2005 and took effect on January 1, 2006.

One of the defects of the law is there is no provision to protect foreign tourists in Viet Nam, according to Vo Xuan Nam of HCM City Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism.

"There is no clear definition of who would take responsibility for any incidents happening to foreign tourists, and this is a big shortcoming of the law," he said.

Most of the participants at the meeting asked the Government to decentralise its authorisation, which would release this burden and make local governments more powerful and responsible. This would also have the effect of improving management.

They proposed that local governments be given the authority to grant tour-guide certification and evaluations of hotel standards.

The leaders of tourism departments from central and southern provinces have asked that new terms for tourist businesses be included and regulated in the law.

For example, the term "community tourism" is a new business, and is not mentioned in any legislation, so "we do not know who would take responsibility for its management," said Hoang Van Toan, chief of tourism administration of Binh Thuan Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism.

They also said the law should include a clause or article that defines and regulates education development.

In addition, the professional training of tour guides and teachers in tourism is a necessity to help the development of the country's tourism sector, according to participants.

Pham Van My, the general director of Lua Viet Tours company and chairman of the HCM City Tour guide Club, said last year there were more than 500,000 Cambodians visiting Viet Nam, but there were no tour guides who could speak Khmer.

The disagreement in planning, figures and reporting are also shortcomings that need to be amended in the law, according to participants.

The amended law is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly in March 2013.

The workshop yesterday also included discussion about the implementation of the Viet Nam Tourism Occupational Skills system in local areas and within tourism enterprises.

This is part of the Environmentally and Socially Responsible Tourism Capacity Development programme, mainly funded by the European Union.

The project, which began in March last year, targets responsible tourism principles in Viet Nam's tourism sector to enhance competitiveness and contribute to the country's socio-economic development plan.

With a total budget of 12.1 million euros, of which 11 million euros are from the EU, the programme's implementation period is from 2011 to 2015. — VNS

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