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Because I work in the tourism industry, people often ask me if I can get them good hotel/resort deals. I usually can, but establishing whether they are the best deals available is becoming increasingly complicated given the huge number of booking channels now in existence.
Reading the Vietnam forums on popular travel review site Tripadvisor, one theme immediately becomes apparent — the ripping off of tourists by taxi drivers, shoeshine boys, street traders, unscrupulous travel agents, etc. Not a day goes by without some unfortunate visitor telling tales of US$50 airport taxi rides, US$5 bananas or ‘luxury’ Halong Bay cruises that turn out to be anything but.
Vietnam recently announced that it had received its six millionth tourist visitor in 2011, conveniently just in time before the end of the year. How many of these visitors were actual tourists, and how many were business travellers, people visiting their family or expats doing visa runs will probably never be known now that the landing card has been scrapped, but if the figure is accurate, it represents a near 20 percent increase on 2010’s figures.
Vietnam’s media has been full of self-congratulatory articles about Halong Bay being named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. People genuinely seem to believe that the award will lead to a huge spurt in tourism and really put Vietnam as a whole on the world tourism map.
Described as “iconic” and “long but intensely rewarding”, the selection was illustrated by a shot of a peaceful temple with a bicycle leaning against it, as if to suggest that Highway 1 represents some kind of Oriental idyll. Er… are you going to tell them or shall I? In the annals of bad travel advice, recommending one of the world’s worst deathtraps for a pleasant cycling holiday has to be right up there at the top.