Vietnam’s tourism industry has been paralyzed for two years now due to border closures and travel restrictions, leaving a number of tour guides and other workforces in the industry without income. With the latest Government’s VND26 trillion (US$1.13 billion) support package, many tour guides in Hanoi hoped to be entitled to receive VND3.71 million ($162.7) each.
Nguyen Anh Phuong, residing in Bac Tu Liem District, who has 12 years of experience as a tour guide in Spanish, told The Hanoi Times that during the pandemic or social distancing period, it is very difficult for everyone including tour guide like him to find another job.
“Most of them have to switch to manual jobs, sell insurance or become real estate brokers to survive the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Like Phuong, Nguyen Quang Dinh, a tour guide with 11 years of experience living in Ba Dinh District, is earning money from selling online and delivering goods.
|Nguyen Quang Dinh (right) and foreign visitors in Hanoi’s President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in August, 2019. File Photos
Phuong and Dinh are among more than 5,000 tour guides who have not filed claims to benefit from the financial support package since they are freelancers and not entitled to aid due to strict requirements.
To qualify for the financial aid, tour guides are required to have a valid tour guide card granted prior to May 1, 2021 and a labor contract with a travel company that are valid from January 1, 2020 to the date of application submission, or being a member of tour guide associations.
Bui Bang Giang, Co-founder of Asia Exotica Vietnam Travel, said that most tour guides signed a short-term contract to leading a tour. The contract is terminated when the tour ends.
Local industry insiders have said the tour guide organization membership card requirement is not appropriate since the organizations do not run the tour businesses but rather travel agencies. They suggested that regulatory agencies should be flexible in disbursing the aid package because the pandemic is a force majeure.
“The Hanoi Department of Tourism should simplify the procedures to suit the actual situation, Dinh said. “To qualify for the support, a tour guide card issued by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism should be enough.”
All the tour guide cards that have been issued have a QR Code integrated and could be easily checked in the online national system. There is no need to add any complicated procedures to disburse the aid, he added.
Phuong suggested bearers of tour guide cards with validity until March 2020 should be entitled to the support. “In the context of the pandemic, it is very difficult for them to renew the card, which requires them to take a test, they will not use it until the pandemic is over,” he said.
|Nguyen Anh Phuong (middle) was introducing the Temple of Literature, one of the best destinations in Hanoi before the pandemic.
After verifying the validity of the cards, aid money should be transferred to tour guide bank accounts so that this support package really makes sense for being delivered in a timely manner, according to local insiders.
Giang from Asia Exotica Vietnam Travel underlined during the complicated developments of the pandemic, administrative procedures should be streamlined in order to create the most favorable conditions for people and for the support money to reach those affected at the earliest time.
According to the Hanoi Department of Tourism, the city had issued nearly 6,000 tour guide cards so far, however, as of August 20, the department has received only about 40 applications for support. Of which, about 16 of dossiers are discarded due to lack of labor contract signed before January 1, 2021.
The Hanoi Department of Tourism has proposed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism simplify the procedures for support. In the process of approving the applications, the department will continue to collect feedback on arising problems and propose solutions to competent authorities.
The municipal department said the main task in September is to carry on with reasonable policies to support those who are facing difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic.