The Quang Ninh tourism officials have done it again with the banning of all kayak use in UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay from April 1st.
Northern Vietnam’s Halong Bay authorities have been implementing strict guidelines lately to all tour companies and cruises that operate in the Gulf of Tonkin over the past year. These campaigns have started from the cave use ban for dinners and events in the end of October 2016 due to poor waste & hygiene management. And now, the government has implemented an official letter with the banning of kayaks by all operators starting from Saturday, April 1st 2017; A decision that went viral in the travel and hospitality industry and have made significant losses to business owners in Halong Bay.
The Reasons Behind the Ban
According to the official document released by the local authorities of Quang Ninh tourism, there are a few main reasons as to why they have decided to temporarily ban all kayak tours and operations in the area. As bizarre as it may sound, one of them is to further preserve the natural beauty of the bay.
Other reasons for banning the kayak services in Halong Bay was to regulate the number of kayaks that are being used throughout the bay by all the cruise companies and tour operators. And lastly, is to create a standardized pricing for all the kayaks for the visitor's use as it’s destroying the image of the natural wonder outside the nation. There have been some reports as well of complaints from foreign visitors about the inconsistent pricing of kayak services in different companies, ranging from free of charge (for low-end cruises) and goes up to US$20 (for the luxury cruises).
Additionally, since kayaking was omitted as well from the province’s heritage conservation plan for Halong Bay in 2015-2020, the government had even further reasons to ban kayaking as early as now.
Travel Companies React
Consequently, even before the ban was implemented on the 1st of April, many business owners, travel agents, and other tourism related companies have voiced out their frustrations because of the sudden decision of the government regarding the kayak ban in Halong Bay.
One particular person who even initiated a petition movement to reverse the decision of the government was Mr. Hoang Nguyen, representative of Handspan Travel, one of the country’s pioneers in sustainable tourism. With his interview with VNExpress, Nguyen told the media channel that his firm was abruptly forced to notify its partners and customers about the changes made, deal with the loss, and even make changes to all the information that he has on his website, brochures, and other marketing materials.
Representing the luxury cruising sector, on the other hand, was Paradise Cruises in Tuan Chau Marina, the company that has the largest fleet in all of Halong Bay. “The sudden banning of all kayak services in Halong Bay was a big shock for everybody, especially for a cruise company like us because we serve hundreds of high-end customers every day and are expecting a lot for what they’ve already paid for,” says Mr. Pham Van Ha, the Director of Marketing for the hospitality group. “Again, as part of the private sector, there’s only so much we can do to change the status that has been implemented upon us. The best thing we could do for now is to comply with all the regulations and support the government’s decisions as we believe that it will lead to something good eventually,” he adds.
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