Vietnam Time

5/27/2018 11:22:29 AM

Cruise ship fined for travel scam

Owner of a cruise ship has been fined VND 15 million (USD 660) following complaints from an Australian tourist of "horrific" experience during a tour in Ha Long Bay.

Lynne Ryan (R) among a group of Australian tourists tour Ha Long Bay in May 2018, in a photo posted on Facebook.

Tourism officials in Hai Phong said on May 25th that they have fined the tour operator after confirming that the tourist's report was "valid."

Lynne Ryan, who was among a group of six Australian tourists visiting Vietnam early this month, came back with disappointment. "Horror trip, Ha Long Bay," she wrote in a Facebook post which drew the attention from many news outlets who published the story last week.

In her post, Lynne recalled that she and her group of friends paid USD 100 per person for the tour from May 2nd-3rd through the Spring Travel Agency, located at No.21, Ngo Huyen Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi after being shown a glossy brochure depicting a journey on a beautiful cruise ship.

However, Lynne Ryan and her five friends were taken to Hai Phong to visit Cat Ba Island but not Ha Long Bay. Also, contrary to the ads, the group was escorted to a junk boat named Hoang Phuong 16 with a dilapidated interior and bad services, turning their tourist experience into an absolutely horrific nightmare.

"Sun decks on the top of boat had wood borers and were falling to pieces," she said, as cited by News.

Her group described their Ha Long Bay tour as a "nightmare" trip.

The Hoang Phuong 16 ship is not licensed to operate on Ha Long Bay.

Soon after being notified of the case, Quang Ninh provincial People’s Committee directed an inspection and verification process, and press release issued by the Quang Ninh provincial People's Committee was issued on May 21st, confirming that cruise ship used to operate in Ha Long Bay in the past but it had been banned from the bay since August 2017 and moved to nearby waters in the neighbouring Hai Phong City.

Ho Quang Huy, vice chairman of Ha Long city People's Committee, said that the list of passengers registered to stay overnight at Ha Long Bay did not include Lynne Ryan. In addition, Huy said that the Hoang Phuong 16 ship was sold to a business in Hai Phong in August 2017 and that the ship is not licensed to operate on Ha Long Bay.

At the same time, representatives from the People’s Committee of Ha Long city in Quang Ninh province reaffirmed that their revisions showed no cruise ship in Ha Long with such poor facilities and services as reported by the Australian tourist.

To avoid any negative effects on Ha Long tourism, the People's Committee of Quang Ninh province has requested that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism(VNAT)  work with the agencies concerned to inspect and handle the case of Spring Travel Agency for selling tourist services that are of an inferior quality to that which was agreed upon.

In addition, Quang Ninh also proposed that the People's Committee of Hai Phong City strictly manages tourist ships operating in the Cat Ba area and to not allow ships of inferior quality to welcome guests.

On the afternoon of May 21st, VNAT sent an order to the Hai Phong city People’s Committee, requesting the city’s functional agencies to strictly handle the Spring Travel Agency which provided the poor and misleading service for the Australian group of visitors, and suspend its operations if necessary. The ship owner was asked to apologise and compensate the tourists.

Hai Phong authorities said the ship providing the tour was registered in the city and has operated in Ha Long Bay without permission. They confirmed that the ship has been downgraded with poor hygiene in the kitchen and rooms for passengers.

The ship was suspended earlier this week and Hai Phong authorities have also ordered the operator to apologise and compensate the tourists.

Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh province is one of Vietnam's biggest tourism magnets. The bay has been hailed by the U.S. travel guide site Smarter Travel as one of the best ecological spots in the world, while Business Insider said that an overnight Ha Long cruise trip is a “must-try” travel experience in Asia. The bay welcomed more than 28,000 foreigners during the first four months this year, according to Quang Ninh's tourism department.

Australia is one of the biggest source of foreign tourists to Vietnam. The country received nearly 147,600 Australian visitors in the first four months this year, up 13 per cent from a year ago./.

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