Kayaking Services Suspended in Halong Bay: Uproar in the Tourism Sector!
The World Heritage site Halong Bay is undoubtedly Vietnam’s top attraction, visited by millions of tourists every year. Kayaking has become one of the main activities in the bay for years now. On 29 March 2017, the People’s Committee of Quang Ninh province made the surprising decision to ban all kayaks from Halong Bay starting 1 April 2017, stating that many tour providers offer a kayak service without an official certificate, and overcharge tourists.
As kayaking was omitted from the province’s heritage conservation plan for Halong in 2015-2020, authorities felt it necessary to stop the activity.
An “Unreasonable Decision”?
What officials present as a campaign to protect the image of the tourism sector in Halong Bay is really a problem for many tourism agencies, as VietNamNet.vn reports. Plus, logistics are a problem: tour companies keep struggling to put this decision into action as many travellers have already booked kayak tours and paid for them.
In their eyes, the order to immediately stop all kayak services is harmful to the development of tourism in Halong Bay.
Tran Xuan Hung, director of Viking Tourism Company, says, “Kayaking is an added service, contributing to the richness of tourism products that are relatively poor in Halong Bay. Authorities should withdraw this unreasonable decision, so I have not informed my partners of this change.”
Paddling a kayak through Halong Bay’s stunning seascape and beautiful limestone karst landforms is indeed an awe-inspiring experience that many tourist boats don’t even charge an extra fee for.
However, many smaller providers deliberately refrain from informing travellers of their rates to be able to overcharge them later. Without registration, their safety measures cannot be controlled which, despite the overall low number of accidents, constitutes a serious risk.
In addition, tourist boats offering the service typically send a crewman who follows the travellers to provide guidance during their kayaking tour. In view of numerous situations where boats have burst into flames in Halong Bay, the authorities urged the operators to keep their crewmen on the boat to avoid dangerous staff shortages.
The bay management board as well as the related agencies have been asked to enforce the order. Offending tour boats will be suspended from sailing for 30 days.
One of the Seven New Natural Wonders
For tourists, this new regulation is surely bad news as they miss out on one of the bay’s most popular outdoor activities. We can only hope that the province’s authorities will find a sustainable solution to allow kayaking in Halong Bay; it’s certainly a unique way of experiencing the 1,600 islands and islets of what was listed among the world’s seven new natural wonders by the Swiss organisation New Open World in 2011.