The current Tourism Law does not allow FIEs to provide the services. A hope arose among foreign travel firms when the previous draft version said FIEs would be able to organize tours for people to travel abroad.
“The holding company in Japan wants to organize tours for Vietnamese travelers. The fifth draft version released last year still mentioned this. But it has been removed in the latest version. We really are disappointed about the decision,” deputy director of a joint venture said.
Many joint ventures, especially ones between Vietnam and Asian partners, have been organizing tours abroad. However, they have been doing this by dodging the laws. Vietnamese sell tours, while foreign partners organize tours and provide services.
The companies don’t provide regular outbound tours, but they organize specific tours designed to travelers’ orders.
“There is a high demand in the market. We have a network in foreign countries to provide high-quality tours. It would be better to allow us to organize tours of this kind,” he said.
Whether to allow foreign travel firms to organize outbound tours remains an issue of discussion. The intention of allowing travel firms to provide this kind of service has faced strong opposition from domestic firms, which say this is contrary to the international practice.
Meanwhile, analysts warn that the regulation, if issued, will make it difficult for Vietnamese travel firms, especially small ones, to compete with global conglomerates.
Vu The Binh, deputy chair of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said the draft regulation on allowing foreign travel firms to provide outbound tours has been removed from the last draft version which has been submitted to the National Assembly, because this is contrary to Vietnam’s WTO commitments.
Under the commitments, foreign invested firms are not allowed to provide outbound and domestic tours.
“Some companies opposed the draft regulation on allowing foreign firms to join the outbound market, saying there was no need to create a competition which would create difficulties for Vietnamese firms,” he said.
Binh thinks that it would not create big changes in the market or put pressure on Vietnamese firms. It would only create more opportunities and give more choices to Vietnamese travelers.
Joint venture travel firms were allowed to organize outbound tours in 2009.