There’s no question that tourism in Ho Chi Minh City has surged in recent years. Last year alone 28 million travellers visited Saigon, which marks a 10 percent increase from 2015, and a 27 percent increase from 2014. By all accounts, the tourism industry in 2017 will be even busier, and officials are expecting this area of business to become one of the three key economic sectors of the city by the end of the year.
Although international and domestic travellers undoubtedly bring a bevy of positive attributes to the economy and image of Vietnam, there are, of course, a few downsides. Some officials are worried that the increase in tourism could negatively affect the environment and lead to a rise in crime. In order to stem these fears, the Department of Tourism, under the instruction of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, came up with a plan. On January 5th they released a code of conduct listing the ways tourists can visit Vietnam while respecting its people and culture.
The code lists eight do’s and don’t’s for tourists to follow. Among these guidelines, visitors are urged to comply with local laws and regulations, respect local customs, and follow the rules and regulations at tourist sites and in other public areas. Another “don’t” of note is the advice not to consume, buy, sell, or use illegal substances, litter, commit vandalism and not to cause any damage to Vietnamese artefacts or cultural relics. On a broader level, tourists are also encouraged to respect the elderly, the disabled, children and women. Finally, although it’s not explicitly stated in the official code of conduct, the Board of Tourism also used this opportunity to ask travellers not to waste food or drinks while in the country.
These rules were printed on a series of flashcards and translated into five languages: Vietnamese, English, Chinese, Korean and Russian. So far 75,000 copies of the code of conduct have been printed, with another 75,000 due to be distributed in June of this year. Tourists can take these fans free of charge at 3- to 5-star hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, in travel agencies, tourist information centers, diplomatic agencies and at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. The project also includes a video clip broadcasted on TV channels, projectors in public areas, and is due to be posted on the municipal tourism sector’s website, although so far this video could not be found.
Although these guidelines could be interpreted negatively by tourists, the Department of Tourism is adamant that their intention is not to chide tourists, but rather to inform them. As Tran Thi Ngoc Thao, a representative of the communications department for the promotion of Ho Chi Minh City said, “We just wanted foreign tourists to have an idea about the do’s and don’t’s of our city.” She went on, “For example, if a visitor wants to visit a pagoda or a temple, these cards lets them know that a [casual] t-shirt will not be acceptable. They are to inform foreigners about good behavior, rather than punish them for bad behavior.”
La Quoc Khanh, the deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Tourism, hopes that the codes of conduct will help promote an image of Saigon as a hospitable and safe place to vacation. This move follows along the heels of similar projects previously set forth in Da Nang and Nha Trang. After Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hoi An and Quang Nam are also scheduled to spread the code of conduct. Originally, the plan was inspired by a similar project done by the department of tourism in Thailand, who subsequently reported positive results.