This is a very unusual time in Nha Trang and perhaps other areas in Vietnam. I do not know what it is but there are currently very few travelers exception of Russians in town. I and other business owners are absolutely stumped as to what is going on. It is usually a slower time of year but not this slow. Perhaps it is a fear that many of us currently have that is the cause. Please take into consideration that the following is the opinions of local expats and Vietnamese business owners that work in the tourism industry and may be way off the mark…… but also maybe bang on. You decide. Firstly the sad facts that have affected me….
For years I have worked to develop tours that take people to places where no others go. It has been a very successful journey and I have had a blast showing people what I love about this country. One untouched place was a small hill tribe still living in primitive conditions in stilted houses. I have taken people there for years and only once seen another Easy Rider there. About 6 months back I dropped off my customers to walk through the village. As a normal part of my strategy, I drive my big louder motorcycle ahead to let all the natives and oodles of kids know that foreigners were walking through town. Until now it has always been a big thrill for
them……. But not today. Huh?? What the heck???? The children were all hiding. I did not understand but then I rounded a bend to drive to my waiting point and saw a large group of tourists all walking together. Oh My God!! The villagers were scared and hiding in their long houses. As I approach the crowd, I look to see locals that knew the sound of my bike peek out the window and wave to me. What a shame. I passed and heard the group speaking French. Ok… I think to myself, It must be a rare thing that just happened. This was a first occurrence and I discussed the situation with my riders. How will this affect my tours? I thought is just a freak event and would not happen often when we saw a small bus operated by a Turkish Tour Company that specializes catering to Russian clients came to pick them up…. Oh Oh….. Since that occurrence, there have been a number of large groups walking through the village. The result has always been the same. The villagers are cowering in their houses while the group gets an experience of what the village is not like. It seems even the farm animals hide from them. Sadly, I will no longer take visitors there and the community will probably transform into another place with endless stalls to buy handicrafts imported from India and China. Last week I was travelling the back roads to Tuy Hoa when I encountered the same tour company taking a group to this non touristy town. I talked with a restaurant owner in Tuy Hoa about it. Originally he was looking forward to the tourists coming as he has the only western food in town but now is disappointed in that they have everything pre arranged none of the local businesses are getting any spin off. The same thing has happened in Dalat. I arrive in local Dalat attractions to see 3 or 4 – 45 seat Tourist busses overwhelming attractions. Even at these touristy attractions, the results seem to be the same… The
local population is intimidated by the large groups of leery travelers. I sit talking with other local Vietnam tour guides and company reps and it is all the same song………. This company is affecting their business. This is a bit of what I have been experiencing. These tourists have paid this large company in advance for a package price and very little of the money goes towards the local businesses. I was told that this company was the one that opened charter air service between Moscow and Siberia to Nha Trang and Danang. There has always been a Russian presence in Vietnam, especially in the Mui Ne area, but about 10 months ago, the street signage in the tourist area changed from predominantly English that is now taught as a second language to Russian.
The opinions and conjecture that I am hearing is that this situation may be hurting tourism for central Vietnam as many people still have issues and prejudices when it comes to Russians. I do not agree with them but I can understand. I have met some very nice Russian people and look forward to them staying with us, however, I can see people being uncomfortable. I have been told that in Russian culture that a person portrays weakness if always smiling, therefore most walk with straight faces. Even if they are the most gentle of people, it may not look that way and it is partly this that has so many people wondering if it is their presence that is affecting the lack of other tourists here at this time. Is this the
reason? I do not know…. I hope not. It is true that the local guides, transportation, and other tourism related business are not benefiting from the tourists in town at the moment. The easy riders are mostly on their regular spots with no work because most the people in town are on a pre-arranged trip. There is the general attitude that these tourists are cheap but I suspect it is more advice of their guides that have caused them to be wary of purchasing anything. In a country where foreign tour guides are not allowed, this Turkish tour company seems to be an exception. That chokes me a bit as I have tried for the same right and have been denied.
Regardless the reason for the tourism business in Nha Trang being so slow the last couple of months, it will be up to all of us to adapt. This company has just as much right to operate here as anyone else. I only hope it operates as a fair player. I have met the Regional Manager and he seemed a nice fellow. One of my friends in the business has already converted sales brochures and marketing strategy to Russian and has benefited from it…. Others will have to follow. It does not matter where a person is from…. They still have to eat and be entertained. My case is different in that I do not operate in tourist areas where most the others do. All of my customers find my services through the internet looking for exactly what I offer and often I will get an email from people who are coming to town and want to hire me. If it is indeed true that people are staying away, I guess I will have to make my services a bit easier to find. Until now, I have kept this blog separate from business and only mentioned it is part of the ongoing story, but now that will change. I will be adding a new post with a permalink to my business interests.