Tourism industry thirsty for Russian-speaking guides
By Dao Loan - The Saigon Times Daily
HCMC – The tourism industry is in dire need of tour guides fluent in Russian to cater to the rising number of Russian tourists to visit Vietnam in the coming time.
Russia is an emerging market and among the top ten visitor-generating markets of Vietnam. The tourism authority is aiming at welcoming 300,000 Russian tourist arrivals in 2014, triple the figure last year.
A businessman related his company was warmly welcomed by senior officials of a central province after the firm had announced to bring Russia tourists to the province.
When asked what the company needed to cater to tourists, the businessman demanded 40 tour guides that can communicate in Russian, which immediately got the nod from the leader of the provincial tourism authority. However, one week later, this leader sadly informed he could not find any tour guide who can speak Russian.
“So we have to do it ourselves. Every coastal province wants to welcome Russian tourists, who are willing to spend and stay for weeks at coastal resorts, but staff and services are not available,” said the businessman.
Sharing the same view, Hoang Thi Phong Thu, chairwoman of Anh Duong Co. Ltd., a travel firm with the largest number of Russian customers, said her company is in thirst for Russian-speaking tour guides.
The tour operator is searching across the country, from HCMC to Hanoi, for tour guides fluent in Russian. Tour guides from other localities are promised a bonus of VND3 million per month to rent houses, in addition to salaries and allowances, yet there is no one for the vacancy.
“It is currently the off-season of tourism, but we are serving more than 1,600 Russian guests staying at 60 hotels and resorts in Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Phan Thiet every day, and desperately struggling to find tour guides. When the peak season of tourism comes, this headache will definitely get worse,” said Thu.
This problem has been voiced by many enterprises when discussing the development of the Russian source market, but there has been no change over the past years.
In May this year, after finishing the survey trips in Vietnam, visiting Russian travel agencies also noted this issue.
Services, tourist sites and hotels in Vietnam can meet the demand of visitors, but Russian-speaking tour guides are insufficient. Most Russian tourists do not speak English, so they cannot understand menus or brochures written in English.
Therefore, in order to develop the Russian market, the issue of human resources and tour guides must be addressed first. Even in HCMC, the leading locality in terms of tourist arrivals, there are few certified tour guides that can speak Russian.
In fact, there are many people fluent in Russian who want to become tour guides but they lack bachelor degrees in accordance with the Tourism Law, thus tour operators do not dare to hire them. In the short-term, the tourism authority should loosen its requirements to address the needs of the market, enterprises proposed.
“Having mastered the language, one only needs to take a tourism training course before becoming a tour guide, but this is disallowed by the prevalent law. Recently, we have sponsored a short-term Russian course for tour guides in Quang Nam, but it is hard for them to speak Russian fluently after only a few months,” said Thu.
She said in September some 30-40 representatives of Russia-based travel firms will arrive in HCMC to meet with local tourism service providers at the International Travel Expo, as well as survey tourism in the city and neighboring localities.
“The HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism has requested us to bring tourists here. We are working with Russian partners to invite dozens of agencies here,” said Thu.
Anh Duong Co. this May invited some 120 representatives of Russian tour operators to Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Danang and Hoi An to study tourism services in preparation for the coming high tourism season.