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Vietnam Tourism Struggles to Keep up with ASEAN Neighbors

It’s long been known that Vietnam is lagging behind its ASEAN neighbors when it comes to the quality of tourism workers. With the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreement on mutual recognition of tourism professionals set to begin in 2015, government officials fear the country isn’t ready to compete in a shared tourism labor market.

Le Tuan Anh, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT)’s International Cooperation Department, raised his concerns at a recent meeting in Ho Chi Minh City the Saigon Times Online reported.

A European Union-sponsored survey of responsible tourism development was conducted among 183 accommodations, 92 travel companies across hundreds of destinations, restaurants and health care centers. It found that Vietnamese staff lack the foreign language, teamwork and problem solving skills to meet regional standards.

Under the ASEAN agreement, any person certified by the Tourism Professional Certification Board in a member state will be eligible to work in any other ASEAN country.

Anh said that without training improvements, Vietnamese will find it difficult to compete with accomplished tourism professionals from other countries citing Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia as states that are “strongly” starting preparations for the upcoming agreement.

Vu The Binh, vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, echoed these concerns. “What matters is that just a few businesses and laborers in Vietnam are making preparations for the new competition,” he said.

According to VNAT’s official figures, the 1.5 million people currently working in the tourism sector in Vietnam is only half that needed to accommodate the over 7 million international visitors expected in 2015.

[Thanh Nien // Photo via Son Doong Cave

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