Vietnamese tour guides petition against illegal Chinese rivals in Da Nang

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An unlicensed Chinese tour guide leads a tour in Da Nang's Linh Ung Pagoda in this 2016 photo provided by Chinese-speaking Vietnamese tour guides.

Unlicensed Chinese guides are allegedly giving distorted versions of Vietnam’s history and culture to tourists.

In the petition, the illegal Chinese tour guides were accused of stealing jobs from Chinese-speaking Vietnamese guides. The city’s tourism department is also accused of being indifferent towards the issue.

The Chinese-speaking Vietnamese tour guide community in Da Nang on Wednesday submitted a petition to the city’s leaders regarding a surge in the number of Chinese nationals providing illegal tours.

Vietnamese law bans foreigners from working as tour guides. However, a number of Chinese nationals have been acting as professional tour guides and providing commentary for tourists at popular destinations around the city.

Some of them have even been distorting Vietnam’s history and culture in their commentary, the petition claimed. Examples include an unlicensed Chinese tour guide who told his group that Vietnam still relies on China and pays tribute to it, and another who claimed the city’s My Khe Beach belongs to China.

“Chinese tour guides tell their tourists that the Vietnamese hate the Chinese so they shouldn’t listen to what the Vietnamese guides say,” a local Chinese-speaking tour guide said. “When they’re accompanied by Vietnamese guides, they speak in regional dialects such as those from Hangzhou, Chengdu, Guangdong or Nanning so we can’t understand what they’re saying.”

Tran Chi Cuong, deputy director of Da Nang’s Tourism Department, confirmed the department had received the petition, but denied the local tour guides’ accusations.

The department has been, and still is, investigating the issue and dealing with unlicensed tour guides, according to Cuong. Since January, it has dealt with 86 violations and issued fines worth VND742 million ($32,600).

Cuong also cited statistics showing an increase in the number of licensed Chinese-speaking tour guides in Da Nang to explain why some feel as if their jobs are being stolen.

Since the beginning of the year, the city has licensed more than 160 new Chinese-speaking tour guides, raising the number of guides licensed by Da Nang to 620. A further 200 guides licensed by other provinces have also been coming to work in the city.

Speaking to the press, Cuong shared how difficult it is for local authorities to combat illegal foreign tour guides.

“Our inspection unit is made up of a team of four people in charge of monitoring accommodation, points of interest and tours,” he said. “In the last two months, we’ve had to ask for reinforcements from the tourism promotion center, Son Tra Peninsula’s management board and other districts.”

The department has been working closely with local guides since 2016 to deal with unlicensed Chinese and South Korean tour guides. However, the department is often unable to deploy inspectors on time when it receives a report of an illegal guide, and they are able to get away, according to Cuong.

The tourism department also needs to have solid proof before it can take action due to the sensitive nature of dealing with foreigners, he added. Furthermore, many of them receive support from local tour operators and are backed up by their Vietnamese co-workers.

Chinese visitors account for nearly 30 percent of all foreign tourist arrivals in Vietnam.

Around 2.65 million Chinese visitors arrived in Vietnam during the first eight months of this year, a sharp increase of 51 percent against the same period last year.

In 2016, 2.7 million Chinese tourists arrived, up 51 percent over 2015. The average growth rate of Chinese arrivals between 2010 and 2016 was 20 percent annually.

Da Nang itself welcomed over 390,000 Chinese visitors during the first eight months this year, an increase of 16 percent compared to the same period last year.

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