The country saw a rise in the number of foreign visitors in
recent years, but there remains a lack of qualified tour guides to support the
sector, according to tourism experts.
Statistics from the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) showed
that the country had welcomed over 3.3 million international visitors and 17.5
million domestic tourists in the first half of the year, up 13.9 per cent over
the same period last year.
However, there are only around 6,000 qualified international tour guides working
in the country.
The shortage can be clearly seen in the number of guides who are capable of
speaking Korean, despite the fact that South Korean tourists are second only to
Chinese visitors to the country.
There were only 17 tour guides in the country who could speak Korean, said Pham
Le Thao, Deputy Director of VNAT's Travel Department.
This had forced many travel agencies to use South Korean tour guides, also known
as sitting guides, who had very little knowledge of Vietnamese culture, she
Some of these sitting guides even took advantage of South Korean tourists by
buying goods in Viet Nam then selling them on to tourists at a premium.
Director of Travel Support Company Do Dinh Cuong told Cong Thuong (Industry)
newspaper that the shortage of guides fluent in languages such as Japanese,
Spanish, Korean and Thai had even forced travel agencies to use untrained
Other enterprises had to rely on collaborators, and this had become more
frequent during the economic downturn with enterprises incapable of financing
their full-time staff.
The number of freelance tour guides has risen quickly, but their quality was yet
to be guaranteed as these guides were not responsible for accidents that
occurred during the tours since they were not bound to any enterprises, Cuong
The strategy to develop tourism to 2020 with a vision to 2030 approved by the
Prime Minister in Decision 2473 signed in December 2011 stipulated that
developing human resources would be a breakthrough to improving the quality of
According to VNAT Deputy General Director Nguyen Manh Cuong, the shortage of
professionals had made enterprises use tour guides from other companies who were
not necessarily professionally trained.
"For that reason, the link between training schools and companies becomes very
necessary," Cuong said.
Despite efforts by enterprises to co-operate with schools, there are still many
According to Dao Thuy Anh, general director of Viet Star Travel Agency, many
graduates from these schools needed to be retrained. "Many of them, especially
those who major in Vietnamese Studies or History, do not have conversational
"Under the tough demands of enterprises, many tour guides have to quit their
jobs due to a lack of knowledge and experience," said Thuy Anh.
To make things easier, VNAT said it would grant international tour guide
certificates to graduates from vocational training schools, not just
universities as before.
However, the proposal had been on the table for a long time but never approved
for some unknown reason, Thao said.
She also added that VNAT had worked on various solutions to help manage the
quality of the country's tour guides, including creating a website with
information on all tour guides so that customers could leave comments if they
All qualified tour guides have also been equipped with smart cards instead of
paper cards, and international tour guides and inland tour guides are
distinguished by the colour of their cards.
"In order to improve the quality of tour guides, we hold a small class for tour
guides every weekend with the help of experienced guides and a retired teacher
who is an expert in tourism. We also organise trips on which a new guide is
accompanied by an experienced one, so that they can learn from each other," said
For many tour guides themselves, higher incentives would make the idea of
devoting themselves to the job a lot more attractive.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News