Amid public backlash over the entry fee mandate in Hoi An, its chairman said the ancient town is under pressure from overcrowding and needs a source of revenue for conservation.
Nguyen Van Son said Hoi An has charged an entry fee from visitors since 1992, which was required for both local and international visitors, but only foreign travelers abided by the rule.
Only 40% of around 15,000 tourists entering Hoi An every day have bought entry tickets, resulting in a heavy loss in revenues, and making it difficult for the town to maintain conservation efforts, he said.
According to statistics from the Hoi An Town People’s Committee, Hoi An collected VND295 billion ($12 million) from ticket sales in 2019. Between 2020 and 2022, with Covid-19 keeping tourists away, the revenues decreased to VND44.3 billion, VND1.45 billion and VND32.1 billion, respectively.
For the past few years, the revenue from ticket sales was used to upgrade infrastructure, improve the quality of tourism services and maintain conservation.
“In 2022, revenues from ticket sales were spent on restoring the old town, dredging the Hoai River, improving fire prevention and training security forces and tour guides,” Son added. “Hoi An did not use money from ticket sales for other purposes.”
On Monday Hoi An authorities announced it would collect fees of VND120,000 (US$5.11) for foreigners and VND80,000 ($3.41) for Vietnamese beginning May 15, with the money to be used to improve infrastructure, restore downgraded relics and to organize tourism events.
The move quickly triggered public controversy among foreign tourists and local business owners, with many saying it would hurt Hoi An’s tourism industry.
Son said the fees under the new proposal are “modest” compared to tickets to Ha Long Bay (VND200,000-250,000), the Hue Imperial Citadel (VND150,000-200,000) or the My Son Sanctuary (VND100,000-150,000).
He said some foreign websites and newspapers considered Hoi An a “cheap destination.”
“This is very dangerous because Hoi An’s tourism image has become undervalued,” he said.
Therefore, the town has decided to collect entry fees from all visitors to turn the ancient town into a top tourist hotspot by investing in infrastructure, improving public toilets and preserving downgraded relics.
Hoi An is recognized as a world heritage site so visitors entering the area must buy entrance tickets, just as they would at Vietnam’s other heritage sites, like Trang An in Ninh Binh Province and Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province, Son said.
Local authorities have announced that they will designate two entrances to the ancient town, one for tourists and the other for people residing in the town as well as those entering it for work.
Many tourist destinations around the world plan to collect similar fees in 2023 to improve the quality of tourism services.
All foreign tourists entering Thailand will have to pay a fee of 300 baht ($12) from June while Venice plans to charge tourists €3-10 ($3.27-10.91) from this summer.
By November the EU will also begin collecting a fee.
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