Mr. Vo Phung, Director of the Center of Culture and Sports of Hoi An, says tightening the sale of entrance tickets was the right thing to do, but the center did not do a good job of informing people, tourists and travel firms of the move. “On March 21 we sent 86 dispatches and 190 emails to hotels, tour operators and restaurants on the tightening of entrance ticket sales to the ancient town. But most of these firms were not helpful as they did not inform visitors of the policy,” he added.
He says that visitors cannot be blamed for their reaction because they were not informed of the tickets in advance. After some initial conflicts with disgruntled tourists, the staff at ticket checkpoints have become more flexible, Phung says.
“Foreign visitors will be invited to purchase tickets. If they say they were unaware of this, we will gladly invite them to visit the town. Domestic tourists who visit the town individually can enter the town freely as before,” he says.
Hoi An’s Vice Chair, Mr. Truong Van Bay, says the first thing to do is to adjust the behavior of the staff at ticket checkpoints. “The tourists who stay in the town for several days will be given a card, with their photo portraits. They have to buy only one ticket to get in and out of the town during their stay here,” Bay says.
Hoi An officials reemphasized the fact that the collection of entrance fees to Hoi An ancient town has been in effect since 1995. The current fare (implemented in late 2012) is lower than the Government’s regulation requiring a maximum of VND40,000 ($2) for one tourist site.
The town government will fine those travel firms that collected entrance fares from tourists but did not supply them with tickets. Commenting on the opinion that the town should not collect entrance fees but raise tax rates imposed on business facilities in the town, Phung says that would be very difficult to carry out.
For over a week, Hoi An has had checkpoints set up on the paths to the ancient town to check entrance tickets. According to statistics, the number of tourists to Hoi An in 2013 exceeded 1.6 million, but only about 31 percent of them purchased tickets. More than VND76 billion ($3.2 million) of ticket revenue was spent on the operation of the tourism management body and conservation of monuments and ancient houses. Because of this, the town has begun to enforce the ticket sales policy to avoid losses.